What if…the Finger Poke of Doom Never Happened?
Our story begins on Monday Nitro. Kevin Nash is one week removed from winning the WCW World Title and ending Goldberg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade, thanks to the unexpected (and unwelcome) interference of Scott Hall and a tazer. Goldberg, looking for vengeance, has been arrested on trumped-up charges of stalking Miss Elizabeth, thus canceling the main event rematch. And, ever the opportunist, Hollywood Hogan has come out of “retirement” to take Goldberg’s place …
January 4th, 1999
Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hogan meet in the middle of the ring, with mere minutes remaining in Nitro. Once, these two men stood aside each other and brought down the black plague known as the New World Order, terrorizing WCW. But one-upsmanship and jealousy boiled over, and split the nWo in two, putting the two pioneers of a new era in WCW on opposite sides of the fence.
It is Nash who finally breaks the stillness, shoving Hogan back into the corner. Hogan feigns like he is going to punch, then exaggerates a simple poke in Nash’s chest. Nash drops to the ground, and Hogan makes a nonchalant cover. The announcers—and the crowd—are aghast at what’s going on, and the referee, obviously as confused as everyone else, begins to make the count.
But between the second and third drop of the hand, Nash unleashes another surprise, and kicks out. Hogan (and virtually everyone else) barely has time to get to his feet and register his dismay before Nash buries his big boot in Hogan’s gut. While the icon doubles over from pain, Nash grabs him, puts him in position and executes the Jackknife powerbomb in the blink of an eye. Hogan crashes into the mat, a heap of lifeless flesh and bones. Nash makes the cover, and the referee breaks free from his own dazed stupor, gets in position and makes the three-count. Scott Steiner, having accompanied Hogan to ringside, charges in, but freezes as Goldberg comes down the aisle like a crazed bull. Steiner bails, and he helps Hogan escape through the crowd as Goldberg slides in the ring and watches the nWo take off. Scott Hall climbs in the ring to celebrate with his buddy, but before he can get within handshaking distance, Goldberg turns and plows into Hall with a vicious spear. The crowd bursts with excitement, and Tony Schiavone almost has a seizure screaming about what this means for the upcoming Souled Out pay-per-view in only a couple weeks away, as Nash and Goldberg glare at one another.
January 11th, Monday Nitro
Nitro starts off with Kevin Nash in the ring, the world title dangling from one hand and a microphone in the other. When he begins to speak, he holds up the belt, but not with pride; more like a prosecuting attorney would hold up evidence to the jury.
“I won this belt a little over two weeks ago at Starrcade,” Nash begins, looking at the belt with more disgust then pride. “I did it by pinning Goldberg after my so-called good buddy, a guy I love more than anything, Scott Hall, tazered the living hell out of Goldberg. Scott, I said it two weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: you didn’t do me any favors, and you had to answer to someone about it. It’s why I let Goldberg spear you out of your boots last week; you deserved to have someone slap some sense into you, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be put in a situation to do it. I don’t need your protection, Scott, and I sure as hell don’t want you making me look like someone that needs watching after. So, I had a little talk with the committee—the power of the belt, ya know—and they don’t much care for what’s going on lately, either, but it’s all too messy to just someone to get the shot. So, at Souled Out, there’s gonna be a match for the first crack at my belt, with Scott Hall and Goldberg. But this isn’t just any old match, boys, oh no,” he says, looking up and grinning. He points, then looks back down at the camera. “Up there? That’s where we’re hanging the tazer. Whoever can climb the ladder can use it any way they see fit. I’ll be waiting for the winner at Superbrawl.
“But, ya see, there’s another issue going, and I don’t think I’d be much of a champion if I didn’t make mention of it.” He pauses, grins that cocky Nash grin and adds (almost under his breath), “No, it ain’t you, Bam Bam, ya big load. No, my problem is you, Hogan. See, me and Hall, we came to this company about two and a half years ago, and we promised a revolution, a war if you will. I told that blow-dried Ken-doll Eric Bischoff that the measuring stick had changed when we stepped foot in WCW; that his collection of rare fossils—oh, I’m sorry, his ‘Big Boys’—couldn’t roll with us; not Flair, not Savage, not Anderson, not even you. And then you came to us, Hogan; you came to us and said ‘I see what side the winning team is gonna be, and the Hulkster wants in. I can help you make that impact.’ Well, you sure as hell helped us make an impact, Hogan … in the tag ranks! We do all the hard work, we risk life, limb and lawsuit to bring WCW to it’s knees, and how did we get repaid? Me and Scott get to screw with the Steiners and Harlem Heat and the Faces of Fear for two years, while you play air guitar and wrestle with a basketball player! Me and Scott threw away careers up in New York—a career where I was World Champion, and Scott wasn’t too far behind me—and we traded it in for that fat paycheck and the first-class airline seats and the limos and the champagne that you old timers worked so hard at keeping us from, and what did we get for all our hard work? We stillsat on the sidelines and played second fiddle to one of the dinosaurs we came here to drive into extinction!” Nash saunters over to the ropes and leans against them, casting his gaze directly to the camera, as cold as the Antarctic shelf. “Hogan,” says Nash, suddenly calm, cool and collected, “you can flash all the handsigns you want; come out to Hendrix, run with guys half your age, do whatever it takes that lets you live in that delusional fantasy that insists you’re still the center of the business. Tonight, Hogan … tonight, I declare to finish the war that two Outsiders began two years ago, even if I have to do it by myself. Starting tonight, I pave over the road you left broken and filled with potholes, and bury you underneath the blacktop. Starting tonight, Hogan … the real Big Boys go a-hunting, and brudda! … You’re number-one with a bullet!”
The main event for Nitro sees Nash defend his World Title against Bam Bam Bigelow. Bigelow uses his size and deceptive speed to wear down Nash, hammering the champ with clubbing blows and punishing high-impact maneuvers. Nash finally manages to mount a comeback after countering a charge into the corner with a big boot, but before he can even think about putting the behemoth away, the music of Jimi Hendrix fills the arena, and out comes Hollywood Hogan and his nWo Hollywood. Nash turns to see the distraction, and starts to jawjack with his nemesis, giving Bigelow his window of opportunity. Bigelow clobbers Nash in the back, turns him around and picks him up for the Greetings From Asbury Park. As he is about to drop Nash on his head, Hogan slides in the ring, hands held out in front as if trying to calm down the Beast From The East. Hogan produces a microphone from his waistband, keeping one hand out, as if submitting to the monster.
“Hey! Hey! Bam Bam!” Hogan offers the hand for a shake, but withdraws when Bigelow only glares at it as if it were a pile of dogshit. “Ya know somethin’, brother, you and me, we got a lot in common. And it all starts with that man.” Hogan jabs a finger at Nash. “Why don’t you put him down and hear me out?” Bigelow regards Hogan with some suspicion, but slowly dumps Nash to the mat. Bigelow stands akimbo, listening with some impatience while Hogan spins his web.
“Ya see, Bam Bam, both of us want a piece of that piece of crud over there. But he owes me, you understand? I made him in this company. Before Hollywood Hogan made the New World Order, you were just a big dumb galoot that they didn’t want up north anymore! I gave you everything you have, and all I asked in return was you give me what was rightfully mine, what Goldberg stole from me last July. And what did you do? You stabbed me in the back!” Hogan looks back from Nash, who is pulling himself up in the corner, to Bigelow. “Let me have him at Souled Out, Bammer. You have my word—the word of the New World Order—that the first shot after I beat that mangy dog Nash for the WCW World Title will go to you.”
Bigelow is about to answer, but Nash stumbles forward and snatches the microphone out of Hogan’s hand. He is gasping for air and biting back pain, speaking through clinched teeth. “Are you … gonna trust this man, Bigelow? The guy … who left the WWF before he had to face Bret Hart? The guy who came to WCW … and filled it full of his buddies and sent Steve Austin to the WWF?” Hogan opens his mouth, but Nash’s voice comes out like the bark of a Pitbull. “Keep your mouth shut, you rotten old bastard! Was I talking to you?” Nash points to Hogan, looking Bigelow in the eye. “Are you gonna trust anything thatguy says? He’s one of them! One of the guys who kept you from being anything more then a jobber at WrestleMania Four! One of the guys who buried your career and sent you to wallow in that barbed wire hellhole in Pennsylvania! Is this the guy you wanna trust your career to? I expect it from Steiner—he’s as dumb a stump anyway, but I know you’re smarter then that, Bigelow! Wake up and smell the screwjob!”
Hogan and Steiner answer not with words but with fists, and pound Nash into the mat. Bigelow backs away, not helping with the beating, but not defending Nash either, and Nitro fades to black with Hogan’s lackeys grinding the World Champion beneath their bootheels, Bam Bam watching in apprehension … and Scott Hall watching from the entrance ramp, silent and grinning.
January 17th, 1999: Souled Out
The mood of Souled Out is tense and nervous, after the previous Monday Nitro and Kevin Nash’s declaration of war against the “dinosaurs”. The comments seem to place Nash back in a role he once proudly wore on his tights: an outsider, railing against the system. With fan favorites like Flair, and reviled villains like Hogan, seemingly lumped into one category in Nash’s point of view, no one knows what to make of him, and what kind of role he might play at Souled Out.
Instead, it is one of the “dinosaurs” that launches the first strike: Hollywood Hogan.
Hogan comes out as Souled Out begins, carrying a manilla envelope and smiling like he just won the lottery, his entourage close behind. After his obligatory—and rejected—posturing in the ring, Hogan addresses the fans.
“In my hand, I hold the power to crush that bug who calls himself World Champion, Kevin Nash,” says Hogan. “In my hand, I got me to everything that Hollywood Hogan deserves. But, I need the WCW President Ric Flair to come out here and authorize it. So, Mister President,” he says obsequiously, “if you’d come out here, brah, and sign on this so we can get on with the show …”
Ric Flair comes out, watching Hogan with a cool, careful stare, climbing the steps to the ring. Hogan sends Steiner to hold the ropes for the President, and even offers a hand to shake when Flair is in the ring. Flair takes it nervously, all the time keeping an eye on the deceitful Hogan. “Ric Flair,” Hogan says, “lemme ask ya something. Did I ever get a rematch for my World Championship?”
An eyebrow arches on Flair’s face, and he utters a simple, “No.”
“Would you say that’s fair for a man of my stature? For a man who built this industry? For a four-time WCW World Champion?”
Again, Flair utters a mystified, “No. But—”
Hogan rips open the envelope and pulls out a contract. “Then I need your approval here, Ric Flair,” he gestures, “so I can buy Scott Hall’s slot in the number-one contendership match tonight!”
Flair’s eyes go wide. “And he agreed to this? To sell the shot to you?”
“He sure did. Call him out, if you like, but his signature’s on the paper, brah!” He pushes the document, and a pen he pulls from the envelope, into Flair’s hands, then turns around and leans over to give Flair a surface to write on. Flair hesitates, studying the contract. Hogan turns his head to look behind and see Flair reading the contract, waiting patiently. Finally, causing a vicious reaction among the crowd, Flair puts down the contract and signs it. Hogan turns after the signing is complete, re-offers his hand, and this time, Flair shakes it vigorously. “Then I suggest you go get your tights on, Hogan!” Flair barks as the crowd turns on Flair as if he has committed treason (and, in a way, he has). “Cause tonight, you’re wrestling Da Man, Goldberg!”
The main event, now without the ladder/tazer stipulation, begins with the same pervasive tension running through it as Hogan comes to ringside, playing his boas as air guitars. He is all smiles and confidence until Goldberg arrives on the scene; the chanting of the crowd, and the sight of the gladiator walking through the fireworks sends Hogan into nervous fits, yelling at the audience to be quiet (to no avail). Hogan is still ranting and raving and doesn’t notice Goldberg has eschewed his normal entrance routine, and is barreling to the ring at a sprinter-like run. Goldberg slides into the ring and crouches, the hunter waiting for his prey. Hogan comes around just in time to see Goldberg before the monster crashes into Hogan with a ferocious spear, crumpling Hogan like a plastic bottle under a car tire. The crowd is rabid, for they know what comes after the spear: the Jackhammer.
Then Scott Hall saunters out, and the mood is broken. Goldberg sees Hall coming down the aisle, and in his hands is a long black stick that Goldberg knows very well. Goldberg motions Hall to come to the ring, but before he can get too far, Nash runs down and rips the tazer from his hands. Nash barks at Hall, who stands there and doesn’t respond. Nash doesn’t see Lex Luger behind him, but knows someone is there when he feels fists crash into his back. Luger drags Nash towards the ring, with Hall backing away, taking part in neither saving nor killing Nash.
Meanwhile, Hogan uses Goldberg’s distraction to sneak out, gets a chair and whacks Goldberg with it. The referee calls for the DQ (thus sending the crowd into fits of rage at seeing a non-ending at a major event), but Goldberg absorbs the sneak attack and turns to stalk Hogan. Hogan tries to hold Goldberg at bay, taunting him, but Goldberg advances anyway … until Luger, having tossed Nash in the ring, nails Goldberg in the back with a forearm shot. The moment of shock is enough for Hogan to swing for the fences, and connect with Goldberg’s head, and this time, the rookie phenom goes down. Luger puts the boots to Nash, while Hogan humiliates Goldberg by hitting his legdrop over and over, until reinforcements in the form of Bam Bam Bigelow, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Perry Saturn hit the ring. Hogan and Luger clear out and hold off their cohorts, who have come down the aisle to protect them, and the pay-per-view draws to a close with the two groups yelling at one another across the arena, while Goldberg and Nash struggle to clear out the cobwebs, and Scott Hall watches both factions and stays right where he is: stuck in the middle.
January 18th, Monday Nitro
“Hail To The Chief” fills the arena as Monday Nitro starts out, ushering WCW President Ric Flair (and Arn Anderson) to the ring with gently falling confetti and streamers descending from the ceiling. Flair bathes in the pomp and circumstance—and ignoring the mostly negative reaction from the crowd, thanks his authorization of Hollywood Hogan’s undeserving title shot—for a minute, giving Schiavone and company time to wonder what all the fuss is about, before speaking.
“I’m Ric Flair!” he barks in his usual histrionic manner, “and I’m the President!Whoo! And what does that mean, double-A?”
Flair holds the microphone up to Arn, who is standing off to Flair’s side in his usual stoicism, mutters, “That means what you say goes around here.”
“That’s right! Whoo! I’m the boss! So right now, I want Hollywood Hogan and the nWo to come out here and face the boss!”
The theme of the New World Order cues up and Hogan leads his men to the ring, skipping their own normal entrance rituals and mannerisms. Hogan gets in the ring, leaving his buddies down on the floor, stepping into the President’s face. The two icons stare at one another, without so much as a whisper passing between them before their scowls melt into laughter and Hogan shakes Flair’s hand. Schiavone, as well as the crowd and viewers, are in shock (and even some of Hogan’s nWo cohorts are too). Hogan sketches a bow in deference to Flair as Flair prepares to speak again.
“As President of WCW, I’m here to inform you that …” Flair chuckles, and his voice takes on a tone of severe derision; “your World Champion, Kevin Nash, isn’t here tonight.” Flair looks to Hogan and Arn, who are doubled over with laughter. “I decided to have him banned from the event tonight, because I thought he might need some time to lick his wounds, after we embarrassed him last night.” The crowd boos this, stopping Flair from going any further. Once they finish their sneers (and a chorus of “asshole”), Flair breaks in with; “So do you wanna know why … you all wanna know why the Nature Boy gave Hollywood Hogan a chance at a title shot last night at Souled Out?” (to which Tony Schiavone utters; “You’re damned right we wanna know!”) “Well, I’ll tell ya why! I’m the President around here, Kevin Nash, not you! Just cause you wear that big belt don’t mean you make the matches or call the shots—you’re just some punk with an ego bigger than his brain—whoo! But this man …” Flair points to Hogan, who puts his hands up to himself in a “who, me?” gesture no one buys, and says, “this man is a legend. This man is an icon. Did he get his guaranteed rematch? No! And while the Hulkster and I may have had some differences, even I won’t deny he’s a legend in this sport, and he deserves more respect then that. He—”
Flair’s voice is drowned out by the music of The Four Horsemen. His attention whips to the entrance to see Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko enter the arena. Hogan urges the nWo to give the two a wide berth. Benoit and Malenko regard Hogan’s entourage suspiciously as they slide in the ring. Benoit, who has come with a microphone, wastes no time in getting down to business. “Ric … what’re you doing? Have you lost your mind?” Benoit holds up four fingers, first pointed up and asks, “Have you traded this”—Benoit tilts his hand sideways and turns it into the nWo’s “4-Life” gesture—“for this?”
Flair pats Chris on the chest gamely and says, “Chris, why don’t you just go back to the locker room? Hell, take the night off. This isn’t any of your business.”
While Benoit just stares in disbelief, Malenko takes the microphone. “Ric, how can you say this isn’t any of our business? Do you know what you’re doing here? Getting into bed with this … this … cancer?”
Hogan steps forward to defend himself, but Arn holds him back, whispering something to Hollywood. Hogan listens, then defers to Flair. “Do you know who you’re talking to, Dean Malenko? Do you know who we is? While you were still figuring out the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch, this man was packing in 90,000 to see him body slam Andre The Giant! While you were watching cartoons on Saturday morning, I was putting on sixty-minute clinics with Ricky Steamboat all across this country! Me, and Hogan and Randy Savage and Lex Luger and Stinger and Arn, you owe us for where you are now, boy! If it weren’t for me bleeding all over myself in a cage against Harley Race … if it weren’t for Hogan nearly getting crushed by King Kong Bundy … or for the sacrifices we’ve made to make this sport so successful as it is now, disrespectful chumps like you wouldn’t be here to take advantage of it! Goldberg didn’t deserve that title shot, and Nash sure doesn’t deserve to be World Champion!”
“So you’re just gonna sell your legacy down the river,” Malenko says. “Just gonna let this vampire corrupt you because you don’t think you’re respected?” Malenko now holds up the four-fingered salute of the Horsemen. “I’ve wanted to be able to do this as a Horsemen since I set foot in this company—to call myself a member of the most elite stable this sport has ever seen—and you want to chuck all that in the garbage because of some prima donna who doesn’t realize he’s not wanted around here anymore.”
Now Hogan can’t help himself, and he tears the microphone from Malenko’s hand. “You just better watch yourself, little man, before I slap that stupid look off your fa—”
Malenko cuts Hogan off not with words, but with the exact deed Hogan threatened: a crisp slap across the cheek. The sheer unexpectedness of the smack sends Hogan staggering back (with Tony getting in plenty of ribbing for the six-six Hogan to have been sent reeling by the much-smaller Malenko). Flair steps in, shoving Malenko back into the ropes. Malenko bounces off the ropes, but uses the momentum to give Flair a nasty shove back, putting Flair on his ass. Hogan and Arn charge, and Malenko and Benoit take both down with punches, but the numbers game proves too much, as Luger, Barry Windham and Curt Hennig lead the charge to roust the young insurgents. But the onslaught quickly turns bak in favor of the youth, as Goldberg comes through the crowd and jumps in the ring, laying out people with kicks and spears. Soon, the reinforcements are swarming the ring; Bam Bam Bigelow, Perry Saturn, Wrath and Booker T all hit the ring, helping to turn the tide and kick Ric Flair’s group of veterans out of the ring.
Flair passes along word to the announcers that, due to their treasonous acts against his cabinet, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Goldberg will wrestle in a six-man tag against Hollywood Hogan, Lex Luger and himself, Ric Flair, in the main event of the night. The announcers harp on the fact that it seems a trap, and those fears are confirmed during the ring announcements, when Ric Flair announces a change to the rules of the match, making it elimination rules.
Dean Malenko is the first to fall to Ric Flair’s anointed “Administration”, eliminated via count-out thanks to the timely interference of The Administration’s newest member, Roddy Piper, who drags Malenko out of the ring knocks him unconscious with brass knuckles (all legal, thanks to a mid-match No-DQ rules change). Benoit is the second elimination, suffering a pinfall to Luger, aided by Piper holding Benoit’s feet, leaving Goldberg alone.
But Flair’s No-DQ rule backfires, as Benoit comes back to distract Flair, along with Saturn and Bam Bam Bigelow who occupy Hogan and Piper, leaving Goldberg to bring down Luger with a thunderous Jackhammer. Flair has little time to complain, or issue another rules change to salvage his game plan, when Kevin Nash comes through the crowd. Flair, seeing the seven-foot champion coming his way, forgets where he is and backs up into the “safety” of the ring … until he backs up into Goldberg. Nash steps in the ring (while Benoit, Malenko, Saturn and Bam Bam keep Hogan held back) and makes a gesture to Goldberg:May I? Goldberg nods and backs off; Nash grabs Flair by the hair, puts him in position, and drops Flair on his back with a Jackknife. Nash then motions the boys on the outside to throw Hogan in the ring, which they do, and Nash picks up the lifeless lump of Hollywood Hogan and proceeds to Jackknife him right next to Flair. Nash shakes Goldberg’s hand, then steps down to the floor while Goldberg adds injury to injury by hitting Flair with a Jackhammer before pinning him … then doing the same for Hogan. The Administration slink away, their night ruined, but no one in Flair’s group look the least bit ready to throw in the towel.
January 25th, Monday Nitro
Nash goes to the ring, all smiles over last week’s embarrassment of Flair, Hogan and their minions. But he no sooner has the microphone in hand then Ric Flair comes to the ring (sans music) … and, lurking behind him are ten armed policemen.
Flair takes the microphone from Nash’s hand. “Gimme my belt, Nash! Right now!” Nash blinks, shaking his head in disbelief. “Right now, Nash! Give it to me!” Nash mouths two words: For what? “For assaulting me, that’s what, big boy! For putting your filthy hands on me and assaulting me! You’re stripped of the title—now gimme the belt!”
Nash is aghast, and when he refuses to surrender the belt, Flair motions to the cops to come to the ring. The cops swarm in, and Flair barks at them; “I want him arrested! Assault, and theft! Confiscate that belt, and get him out of my building!” Seeing he is outnumbered—and that resistance will only make things worse—Nash drops the belt and allows himself to be led out of the ring in handcuffs, to a chorus of jeers from the crowd. Flair picks up the belt and tosses it over a shoulder, in time for Mean Gene Okerlund to come to the ring and question the deranged President.
“How can you justify stripping Nash of the WCW World Championship, Ric Flair?” Okerlund asks. “You brought it on yourself!”
Flair’s composed delivery is as chilling as a winter storm. “You’ll wanna watch yourself, Okerlund, before you find yourself on the unemployment line.”
“You’re mad with power, Ric Flair! And you’ve let Hollywood Hogan poison your mind!”
“No, no, no, Mean Gene. Hollywood Hogan woke me up. Do you know how long I’ve been in this business, Gene? I wrestled my first match in 1972, the same year as Roddy Piper. Savage started in ’73. Hollywood Hogan, he had his first match in ‘78. You know how long it took us to get to the top? Took me nine years, Gene. Took Savage fifteen years. Took Hogan six years … and Piper’s never been World Champ.” And suddenly, the color rushes back into Flair’s face, and his voice quickly hits the high register. “And how long did it take Kevin Nash? Four years at best?!? Goldberg–his rookie year?!? How’s that fair? We busted our butts for years to build this sport into something these disrespectful brats would even wanna get into, and the thanks we get is a powerbomb? A Jackhammer? Not anymore … not while I’m President! Whoo!”
“But what about the World Title, Ric Flair? How do you intend to fill the vacancy?”
“Well, we’re gonna have ourselves a little tournament!” Flair holds up fingers to punctuate his statement. “Eight men will compete, and the finals will be at Superbrawl on February 21st in Oakland! Whoo!” Flair counts off a finger as he lists each man, which essentially (save for two) is a membership list of The Administration. “Hollywood Hogan! … Lex Luger! … Roddy Piper! … Randy Savage! … Curt Hennig! … Barry Windham! … Sting! … and Ric Flair! Ei—” The crowd drowns out Flair with boos; Flair glares at the crowd, sees a couple booing in the front row and points at them. “Your old lady’s only booing cause she’s gotta home with you instead of ridin’ Space Mountain tonight, buddy. Whoo! Now, as I was saying … Eight men, who have bled … sweat … broken bones … left families behind … made every sacrifice imaginable to get to the top. Eight men who all deserve to be called champion.”
“But we haven’t seen Macho Man Randy Savage in months!” Gene says. “And how do you know Sting even wants anything to do with your corrupt Administration?” The audience’s chant of Goldberg steadily increases in volume, and Gene points out the obvious. “What about Goldberg? Where’s his title shot?”
“Goldberg?!? You’re asking me about Goldberg? Goldberg blew his shot at Starrcade. Maybe in a few years, when he’s proven himself, he might get another shot. But right now … this company needs stability, this company needs order, and this company needs tradition. And that’s something that only me like me, and Hogan and Sting and the rest of my Administration can deliver–notthese wannabes like Nash and Benoit! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m the President—whoo!—and I got work to do!”
The tournament begins on the February 1st Nitro, with the caveat that, should any of the men Flair has designated as “enemies of tradition” interfere in the progress of the tournament, they will be fired from WCW. Luger beats Barry Windham cleanly. Flair wins by forfeit against Randy Savage, who fails to show up (due to his ongoing injury. The second two matches, however, doesn’t go nearly as smooth.
Sting’s match against Curt Hennig begins with the offer of a handshake from Hennig. Sting takes it reluctantly, and is further surprised by the clean breaks and lack of cheating on the part of Hennig. Sting—who has yet to really respond to the overtures from the Flair/Hogan camp—is unsure of what to make of a fair-playing Hennig, not a man known for clean breaks and by-the-book wrestling. Eventually, Sting manages to defeat Hennig, who takes it like a man and offers another handshake, congratulating Sting on his victory.
But as Hennig walks down the aisle and back to the locker room, he bumps into an unexpected visitor: Chris Benoit. The two start to argue; words lead to pushes, and Benoit responds with a stiff slap. Hennig is winding up to strike when Sting comes from behind and steps in the middle. Hennig tries to strike at Benoit (who is baiting Hennig with taunts and moving in and out of his reach), but Sting pushes him back. Hennig tries to swing at Benoit again, but Sting shoves him back; Hennig’s jaw drops to almost comical levels of surprise, and he leaves, making a wide circle around Sting, who is blocking Benoit from giving chase. Sting admonishes Benoit for his behavior (warning him not to get too carried away, lest he want to end up jobless), then leaves.
The last first-round match, Hollywood Hogan versus Roddy Piper, progresses without incident all the way up to Hogan hitting Piper with the big legdrop; Hogan stands up and goes through his posing repertoire to annoy the audience … Only to be distracted by the music of the New World Order. All attention focuses on the entrance, where Scott Hall strolls down to ringside, microphone in hand. “Hey, yo!” he starts out, but the crowd is too confused to know what whether to cheer or heckle. “Hey … Hollywood … Piper. Do I got a surprise for the two of you!”
Hogan stares, confused, at Scott Hall, not registering the crowd coming out of their seats. When Hogan finally turns around, it’s too late; Kevin Nash doubles Hogan over with a kick and hits the Jackknife, then hightails it out of the ring. The ref rings the bell, ordering the disqualification on Piper, but Hogan is out cold.
The crowd cheers as Hall and Nash embrace in a manly hug, two friends finally on the same page again. But the good vibrations don’t last but a second, when Ric Flair storms out. “That’s it! That is it!” Flair marches right up to Nash, getting within inches of him, leveling a finger in Nash’s face. “I don’t know how you got outta jail, big man—”
Hall butts his head in with the world’s biggest shit-eating grin. “I bailed him out,” he says matter-of-factly. Flair glowers at Hall, who puts his hands up and backs away, the shit-eating grin erased.
I will not tolerate degenerate scum like you, disrupting my show, interfering in my matches, and making a mockery of these men and their legacies! You’re fired! Get out of my building!”
Nash’s eyebrows go up, as the crowd gasps in unison. Nash gestures to both him and Hall, and Flair nods vigorously. “Yes, the both of you—fired! Get out!” Nash and Hall back down the aisle, astonished, while Flair keeps repeating that Hall and Nash are fired and to leave the building (“cause I’m the President, whoo!”).
Ric Flair’s abuse of power continues on the next week’s Nitro, starting with Chris Benoit. Because he didn’t interfere in the progress of the match, Flair cannot fire him, but punishment isn’t expressly forbidden, and to that effect, Benoit is punished: a handicap match against the Windham & Hennig. And to further “sweeten the pot”, indefinite suspensions for Benoit & Malenko if he should lose. Meanwhile, Goldberg is put in a gauntlet match, with Brian Adams, Scott Norton and Scott Steiner, with the added stipulation that Goldberg must pin all three (no DQ’s or count-outs) if he wants another shot at Hogan. And, the featured matches for the evening are the semi-finals of Ric Flair’s sham of a tournament, with Roddy Piper facing Sting, and himself facing Lex Luger.
Benoit takes an ugly beating from Hennig & Windham, but fortune smiles on him as a Windham lariat knocks Hennig out cold. When Windham tries another lariat, Benoit catches him and swings him into the Crippler Crossface, and Windham taps out. Likewise, Goldberg’s matches are brutal and taxing; Brian Adams falls the easiest (barely 30 seconds into Goldberg’s march), but the bullish Norton gives a much more difficult match. After seven long minutes (seeming much longer, as Norton controls a good half of the time), Goldberg is able to overpower Norton and pin him, but has little left in the tank for the fresh (and even bigger) Steiner. Steiner, however, doesn’t count on Goldberg’s will to win, and a second wind helps Goldberg get the better of Steiner … until, desperate to stop the monster, Steiner grabs a chair and blatantly blasts Goldberg in the head, causing the DQ. The crowd turns violently on the obvious attempt to protect Hogan, but Flair’s rules, fair or no, are the only rules the company has for now.
The semi-finals prove uneventful and, to the fans, of little interest, with Hogan beating Luger to move into the finals at Superbrawl (of little surprise to anyone), and Sting getting the best of Flair for the other half of the finals. It is after the match is over that ripples of curiosity start to move about when Flair offers his congratulations to Sting.
“Ya see! Ya see! This is what I’m talkin’ about!” Flair struts, caps it off with awhoo!, then points at Sting. “This right here … the Stinger … and the Nature Boy, once again, fighting for the gold! Whoo! By God, it don’t get better than this! One more time, Stinger, we’re gonna style and profile and walk that aisle, and do it like only you and I can! Whoo!”
Sting, however, doesn’t share Flair’s opinion, and lets his own opinion be known by leaving the ring and walking away. Flair barks at Sting from the ring while the announcers kibitz about what this all means as Nitro closes out.
But even though the finals of the tournament are set, the last Nitro before Superbrawl doesn’t fail to shake things up, right from the start, as Flair comes to the ring (flanked by The Administration) and calls out Sting for “a few simple questions.”
So blindsided is Flair by the re-emergence of Eric Bischoff instead of Sting that he doesn’t register it’s the former WCW President until Hogan is screaming at the top of lungs next to him. And the crowd is equally confused, for Bischoff is still a symbol of the machine that has tried to dismantle WCW for the better part of two years … but the man in the ring is doing more to run WCW into the ground than ever before.
“Are you having fun in my office, Flair?” Bischoff asks. “Are you having fun, playing with people’s lives and ruining careers and crushing the company I built into a juggernaut like a bug under your boot?” Flair opens his mouth, but can’t even get off a syllable. “Shut up, Flair! Just shut your damn mouth for once!When I took over this company, it was a joke. You couldn’t pay people to watch the crap that was on the air back then. But I turned it around, and even knocked the great Vince McMahon off his pedestal. It took me 3 long years and a lot of Ted Turner’s money to make this company into what it is today … and it makes me sick to see you kill off this company week after week, Flair. But I’m here to change all that.” Bischoff grins; it sends the crowd into hysterics, who are eating up Bischoff’s about-face with a spoon. “Effective immediately, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are reinsta—”
Flair is so irate, he is almost the color of blood. “You can’t do that; I’m the President!” He rips his sport coat off, throwing it down with dramatic flair. “You’re nobody, Bischoff! I’m the President! Hall and Nash are history!”
“Lemme tell ya something, Flair … you may be President, but you don’t know much about how things run around here.” Bischoff bends down to pick up a briefcase at his feet. He turns it to himself, opens it and pulls out two large, long documents. He sets down the briefcase again, then holds the contracts aloft, taking special care to keep them facing him and not the camera or the audience. “See these? These are the contracts for Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Contracted wrestlers for World Championship Wrestling can be terminated at any time, without prior notice; am I correct, Mister Flair?” Bischoff doesn’t give Flair a chance to answer. “Then, how, oh President Flair, can you terminate a wrestler”—Bischoff turns the contract around to face the crowd and the camera, with a familiar black-and-white logo at the top clearly visible—“who has a contract with the nWo?”
The crowd, like Flair, is in hysterics over the news (although the audience’s hysterics are much more elated, while Flair’s is an enraged denial). Bischoff doesn’t stop; “When I joined the nWo, I gave WCW wrestlers thirty days to convert their WCW contracts to nWo contracts; this included all current member of the New World Order, Ric. And since you can’t fire wrestlers who aren’t contracted to WCW, that means Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are reinstated!” Bischoff keeps talking, even over the roar of the crowd. “And any wrestler who wants to convert their WCW contracts to nWo contracts can get in touch with me. You’ll find I’m a firm but fair negotiator.”
Bischoff turns to leave, makes it halfway to the curtain, then stops and turns back, smile on his face. “Oh, I forgot something. I forgot something important. See, I got a lot of people on my roster, Flair … a lot of people I don’t want. And I’m gonna address all of them individually, when the time comes But there’s one contract of particular importance that I have to address right now.” Bischoff pulls out another contract from the briefcase and studies it. “Ah, here it is! Even got a thirty-day no-compete clause! Tough break, kid, tough break.” Bischoff walks up the aisle, stands at the base of the ring and tosses the contract in the ring. “Read it and weep, ya stupid bastard,” he says as he walks back to the entrance ramp. Flair picks up the contract; the Administration huddle together to pour over it. With the exception of Flair, the Administration are in fits of rage; Flair is wide-eyed with silent horror as he pours over the document. Bischoff stops at the entrance ramp. “Well, aren’t you gonna share with the group, Flair? Or maybe you’re a little confused, Flair? A little rattled, don’t know what to do? Then let me make this real simple: the finals to your precious little tournament just went down the drain, because effective immediately, Hollywood Hulk Hogan—you’re fired!”
Our story resumes at Superbrawl. Turner Sports President Dr. Harvey Schiller has stepped in and made three matches for the event: Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko will face Barry Windham & Curt Hennig in a steel cage, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash get Roddy Piper & WCW President Ric Flair, and Goldberg will square off against Lex Luger. The only issue left up in the air is Sting’s opponent for the vacant World Title …
February 21st: Superbrawl
The rumors of Sting’s mystery opponent permeate every discussion of the announcers during Superbrawl, but no one can settle on a likely contender; most of the obvious people (Nash, Hall, Goldberg) are already wrestling, and none rest on Ric Flair’s good side. And with the Administration being excluded via their losses in the tournament, the only option seems to be handing Sting the title without a fight.
In the meantime, the announcers try to focus on the stories in the ring, starting with Goldberg’s match against Lex Luger. The referee—Charles Robinson, whose hair has undergone a bleaching and bears such a resemblance to his boss that he’s now being referred to as “Little Naitch”—shows blatant bias on the part of Luger, giving him leeway to use every cheating tactic in the book, while Goldberg is admonished for every strike, and any grapple more serious than a collar-and-elbow tie-up. But Luger underestimates the power and ferocity of Goldberg, and goes for a Torture Rack barely three minutes in (and after a limited offense of choking and closed-fist punches to boot). Goldberg slides out, hunkers down, and hits the spear. The crowd is whipped into a frenzy for the well-known follow-up to the spear, and even with Little Naitch throwing a conniption fit and trying to paw at Goldberg to let Luger go, Goldberg drops him with the Jackhammer for a ridiculously slow three-count. Goldberg feigns an attack on Robinson, which sends him scurrying away as if his ass were on fire, and celebrates his victory. The announcers note how fast Goldberg dispatched of Luger, and how he should be able to wrestle another match later on (since he’s done it before).
The steel cage tag match is a bloody affair, almost reminiscent in its carnage of mid-eighties NWA and people like Tully Blanchard, Magnum TA and Dusty Rhodes. The faces of all four men are bounced off the cage and raked open, but none more than Dean Malenko; he falls victim to Barry Windham (who towers over the cruiserweight in both height and weight) having snuck in spurs, which Windham uses to perforate Malenko’s forehead like a paper towel. But the Windham/Hennig combination gets over-zealous with their punishment of their juniors, and it proves to be the fatal mistake; Windham uses the cage to position himself in the middle of the top rope, intending on a leaping lariat for Benoit. But Malenko rushes the big man, saving his best friend, and opening a fluke window of opportunity when Windham topples end over end, and is trapped upside-down, his leg caught in the twisted ropes. Windham struggles to loosen the ropes, but Malenko uses his resources, tearing off the tag rope and using it to bind one of Windham’s hands above his shoulders so he can’t bend up to loosen his foot (and makes sure to get in a few cheap shots). With Windham detained, Malenko joins Benoit in the two-on-one beat down of Hennig, and make him tap with the sadistic combination of Malenko’s Texas Cloverleaf and Benoit’s Crippler Crossface being applied simultaneously.
With two victories for Eric Bischoff’s reorganized New World Order (with Benoit, Malenko and Goldberg having been the first men to switch allegiances on last week’s Nitro), the night seems to be heading for a trifecta with The Outsiders’ match against Ric Flair & Roddy Piper. But before the match even begins, bad omens pop up, and none bigger than Hollywood Hogan, who quietly makes his way to the front row in the audience and takes a seat, his emotionless face hidden behind sunglasses. Another bad omen is Flair’s pervasive power abuse, by which he conveniently adds a street-fight stipulation to the match.
The two big men seem to have the match well in hand, fighting off even the most dirty of tactics by the ever-scheming Flair and Piper; every shot to the groin by The Administration leads to a violent retaliation from The Outsiders in the form of a chair or some other foreign object. Every poke in the eye or illegal tag from Flair and Piper earns more wrath from the already-pissed giants. But it is the uncontrollable fury that Flair and Piper use against The Outsiders.
With the ring cleared of their opponents, Hall and Nash set up a table in the ring to put Flair through. Once Flair is dragged in the ring, Nash takes his sweet time in setting up the Jackknife, while Hall keeps Piper occupied on the outside. But Piper uses a drop toehold to send Hall into the steel steps, and the master plan goes into effect; Hogan leans over the railing and hands something to Piper, who slides in the ring. Nash hauls Flair up for the Jackknife, and Piper plants the object, a tazer, into Nash’s back. Nash convulses, dropping Flair, who quickly makes the cover, gets the duke and bails. Hall manages to climb in the ring and sees the discarded tazer lying on the mat, next to the downed Nash, and turns to see Flair and Piper backing down the aisle, taunting and razzing their foes.
After a few more matches pass, the main event—or, what is left of it—is scheduled to begin. Sting goes to the ring and waits. Standing next to him, Michael Buffer, having announced Sting, stands in silence; he, like everyone else, has been kept in the dark about who the mystery man could be.
The music of Ric Flair pierces the silence, and the President comes to the ring. He offers a hand to Sting, who just looks at it; Flair, undeterred, grabs Sting’s hand and shakes it anyway. “Stinger! Tonight … tonight, you’re gonna make history! Tonight, the Stinger goes one on one with a former World Champion … a real man of tradition … and …” Flair pauses, letting the crowd build itself to a fever pitch. “And … the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, Bret Hart!”
For the first time in months, Bret Hart, the reigning United States Champion, comes to the ring. The crowd—who remembers that Bret has been less than trustworthy in his short time in WCW—is unsure what to make of Bret, especially when he shakes Flair’s hand upon arrival. Bret surrenders the US belt to the referee, discards of his jacket and shades, and steps up to meet the challenge of Sting. The two stare at one another in the silence reserved for those gladiators who respect their opponent, but also see the necessary evil of having to destroy the object of their respect.
When the bell rings, the two men circle one another, studying each other like two caged tigers. At first, the two men run through tests of strength, collar-and-elbow tie-ups, and reversal sequences to feel each other out; they find they are remarkably similar, with Sting giving up a little to Bret’s technical expertise, and Bret giving up to Sting’s speed and a bit of size. The action is a perfect back-and-forth event, with no man showing for any amount of time his superiority over the other. And for two men who are, for the most part, totally new to one another in the ring, they seem to know each other well; all the signature maneuvers are countered, blocked or escaped. All the while, Ric Flair sits idly by, next to the timekeeper, waiting to congratulate the winner, whomever it may be.
The end comes so suddenly, no one is really sure it has happened until the belt is in the winner’s hands. Bret whips Sting into the ropes and goes for a dropkick. But Sting sidesteps and bats Bret away. Bret collides with the mat, more stunned by the lack of contact with Sting then the fall and impact. But Sting wastes no time; he grabs Bret’s legs and flips over in a bridge. Bret struggles and squirms, but when the referee’s hand hits the mat for the third time, any effort to fight back becomes moot.
Flair immediately comes into the ring, WCW Championship belt in hand. Bret, now getting to his feet, eyes Flair with eyes like lasers. Flair helps Sting get to his feet and thrusts the belt on Sting, now a five-time WCW Champion. Bret offers a congratulatory handshake, and Sting does not decline; Flair, meanwhile, is demanding a microphone.
“Whoo! Stinger! Whoo! By god, World Champion! On behalf of The Administration, I congratulate you on a job well done.” He claps Sting on the shoulder, and brings his voice down low. “I know you’re gonna wear this belt with pride, as you’ve done in the past, and do this company and its history proud, and you’re gonna represent The Administration and the proud tradition it represents.”
Sting, who is still catching his breath, raises an eyebrow. “But Ric,” he says, “I never said I was part of The Administration.”
All the jubilation and excitement drain out of Flair’s face as if guarded by a drain plug that has just been removed. Flair’s voice goes from calm and pleasant to cold and distant. “Sting, you wanna be careful about what you say. You’re a good man, Sting; you’ve been a company man your whole career. I know we’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m here to tell you—from the bottom of my heart, and from your friends, friends like Lex Luger—that we’d hate to see you jeopardize all that by putting yourself at odds with The Administration. You’ll represent this company well as champion, and with The Administration backing you, there’ll be no stopping you. We will rule this company and crush those punks in the nWo.” Flair taps a finger on Sting’s chest. “But without us, Sting … there won’t be a place to hide, or a person you can trust.”
Sting’s eyes show no fear. If anything, they’re full of the youthful defiance he has always shown … and, until the past year and a half, had been buried behind stony cold and feelings of betrayal. “If you’re trying to intimidate me, Ric, it isn’t working.”
“But I know you’re a smart man, Stinger; I may not be scaring you, but I damn well know I’m getting through. The Administration won’t take to be played for long. You got twenty-four hours to make your decision, Sting. By tomorrow night, I expect an answer.”
Nitro’s card is as stacked as a pay-per-view, starting with Dean Malenko challenging Bret Hart for the US Title; also, Chris Benoit will face his former Four Horsemen mentor Ric Flair, and a triple-threat match between Goldberg, Scott Hall and Bam Bam Bigelow. But even with the stacked card, discussion among the commentators naturally turns to the events of Superbrawl, Sting’s big decision, and speculation about what decision he will make.
But before that can occur, Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash come to the ring, met by Gene Okerlund. Okerlund wastes no time with the questions; “Big Sexy, Mister Bischoff … why are you out here?”
Eric answers first, a big Bischoff smile almost cutting his head in half. “Gene, the New World Order has a lot of issues we wanna address; there are still a few people under nWo contract who haven’t pledged their loyalty to us, and of course we still have a membership drive going—just picked up Bam Bam Bigelow, as a matter of fact!”
“But isn’t he facing—”
“You mean to tell me your family doesn’t have squabbles, Okerlund? The New World Order is a family, just like any other … not all of us get along all the time, but we’re all united towards one goal: eradicating Ric Flair’s Administration. And that’s the real reason I’m out here. If last night at Superbrawl showed us anything, it showed that Ric Flair is desperate to keep his stranglehold on WCW. See, when he beat me for the Presidency of WCW, it was only for 90 days, and his term is coming up … so if he can control the WCW Champion, he’ll still be able to flex his muscle around here, even if his term is up.”
“But Sting hasn’t said he’s with the Administration? Aren’t you jumping at shadows?”
“Maybe I am, but in war, you can’t be too careful, can you, Gene? That’s why I took it upon myself to go to Dr. Harvey Schiller and ask him to step in. Tonight, on Nitro … there will be a 20-man battle royal. The winner gets a World Title shot at Uncensored!” The crowd erupts, but Eric talks over them. “And before President Flair can get too excited about stacking the deck somehow … Dr. Schiller has already chosen the participants.”
“Well, this is big news! A twenty-ma—”
Nash swipes the microphone from Okerlund’s hand. “Didn’t you notice the seven-foot guy standing next to you, chrome-dome?” Nash glares at Okerlund, who makes tracks for the back. Once he is gone, Nash says; “Ya know, last night at Superbrawl, I got a taste of what it felt like for Goldberg back at Starrcade, when Scott hit him with the tazer. I’m not saying what Scott did was right, cause it wasn’t … but last night, I got a taste of it myself, and lemme tell ya, it sucked. Sucked bad. Now, Piper … I’ll catch up with him … it may not be tonight, ya little skirt-wearing piss-ant. But when I do …” Nash chuckles, pounding one fist into his other hand. When he’s made his point there, he then says; “Now … Hollywood Hogan. He buys a ticket, sits at ringside, interferes in a match … real clever, baldy. Ain’t seen that since Raven came to WCW. Poor baldy … see, he’s getting old, and he don’t like it. Arthritis is setting in … probably more times than not, he can’t remember where his car keys are … it’s a bitch getting older, ain’t it, Huckster? And you tried to surround yourself with younger guys so you could feel cool, even for a little protection so you could make one last grab at the brass ring. But he got greedy, and the young guys who came here in to shake things up … well, we all realized that our ‘leader’ was just another one of senior citizens we want outta here, and he had no intentions of stepped aside for us. How it must be eating him alive to be sitting on the sidelines, seeing guys like Benoit and Malenko and Goldberg run through his boys, while he sits in a chair and waits for that first Social Security check! Hate to break it to ya, old man, but times change! The old go away, and the young take their place!” Nash pushes the hair out of his face, turns to Bischoff and asks; “Last I checked, we got a big event on March 14th, right?” Bischoff nods. Nash turns back to the camera, a smile devoid of any happiness on his face. “I remember when that pay-per-view first came around, everything about it was unsanctioned. WCW just put up the venue and the official. I think we need to return to that, Hogan. You and me … no New World Order … no title shots … no contracts … no rules. Two guys with a grudge who wanna beat the living hell out of each other. Whattya say, Huckster? I know Father Time hasn’t shriveled ‘em up to raisins. Write it down, so you don’t forget, and let me know. But don’t take too long, Hogan … time ain’t exactly on your side.”
Malenko pushes Bret to his limit in their match for the United States Title, using his speed advantage to dazzle the Excellence Of Execution, while relying on his mat-based prowess to keep Bret on the mat. Even Bret’s size and strength advantage, which he uses as best he can to wear down Malenko, isn’t enough to keep the hungry cruiserweight from capturing the company’s #2 title. But the technical prowess of Hart wins out in the end; while in Malenko’s Texas Cloverleaf, Hart reaches back and grabs Malenko’s ankles, tripping him. With Malenko on the mat, Hart is able to stand and lock in his Sharpshooter, which he holds onto for the victory. Malenko is furious with himself, and Hart offers no condolences or congratulations for a well-fought match; they eye one another, and Hart leaves.
Benoit’s match against Flair is a clinic for technical wrestling, with Benoit working over Flair’s head and neck to prep for the Crossface, and Flair weakening Benoit’s legs for the figure-four. However, Flair cannot rely on himself to win the match, and when his Administration friends see he is on the ropes, Piper comes out for some illegal assistance. But before he can get very far, Eric Bischoff intercepts Piper and clocks him with a set of knuckles. Benoit seizes his moment and slaps on the Crossface, but Flair gets to the ropes. Benoit holds on just for a second, and that proves to be his undoing; Flair barks something to the referee, Charles Robinson, who quickly turns and commands the bell be rung. The official decision is announced: for violating the ref’s orders to break the hold, Benoit has been disqualified. The crowd whips up into a riot, and Flair has to walk through a storm of flying soda cups and garbage to get back to the locker room.
As if the ending to the Benoit/Flair match didn’t agitate the fans, the canceling of the triple-threat match ruffles even more feathers, but is unavoidable, when all three participants are rendered unable to compete through various ways; Bigelow is discovered in the locker room, unconscious and bleeding, with two small burn marks on the back of his neck. Ric Flair produces a tazer from Scott Hall’s locker, and the police take Hall away on assault charges. And Goldberg is nowhere to be found in the arena; his locker is empty of personal possessions, and no one in security has seen him come in.
It is Ric Flair (flanked by Piper, Luger, Hennig and Windham) who breaks the news to the dejected (and angered) crowd. “The Administration regrets to inform you all that the match between Goldberg, Scott Hall and Bam Bam Bigelow will not be able to compete in tonight’s three-way match. I’m sure you all saw that Scott Hall perpetrated a heinous and unwarranted attack on Bam Bam, and was arrested for it. Were I Scott Hall’s boss, I would punish him … but I guess that’s how Eric Bischoff likes to run his business. And right now I got a business to run myself … Stinger! Come out on here, champ.”
Sting’s music cues up, and—with a baseball bat in one hand and the WCW World Title in the other—the new WCW World Champion makes his way to the ring. Flair offers his hand for shaking, but Sting doesn’t even acknowledge it. Like the night before, Flair seizes it and shakes anyway, Sting’s arm jiggling limply. “Whoo! What a night last night, ay, Stinger? Whoo! But I got another surprise for you. Bret!”
Bret Hart, still in his wrestling gear, comes to the ring (sans the US belt). Flair offers him a hand as well, but unlike Sting, Bret shakes it, prompting speculation from the announcers and a murmur of confusion from the crowd. Sting watches all this with a skeptical eye, growing more so by the moment. Flair says some words to Bret, then addresses Sting and the crowd again. “Sting … I don’t wanna take up too much of your time—you’re the champ, you’re a busy man. I know that better then anybody. We all know why we’re here. So why don’t just skip all the nonsense, and you tell me what I already know, so we can get to planning a victory party.”
Sting uses his bat to point at Bret (who, from the expression on his face when he looks down at the bat, which is almost poking him in the chest) and says; “So what’s he doing here?”
“That’s not important, St—”
“It’s important to me, Ric. Why is Bret here?” And, looking at Bret while directing his question to Flair; “And why did he shake your hand?”
“Respect, Sting. C’mon, Sting … almost every man in this ring has held a world title … every guy here has held gold over and over. And you’re just like us, Sting; you’re a legend in this business. Just the mere mention of the name Sting, and people know you’re talkin’ about a champion. A legend. An icon in this business … just like me and Barry and Curt and the Package and Hogan. Bret recognizes that. That’s why he shook my hand.” Flair puts out his hand, and this time, it stays out in the air, waiting.
Sting regards the hand for a moment, then gives his answer by backing up a few steps, shaking his head. “I respect your accomplishments, Ric. All of you, I got nothing but respect for what you’ve all achieved in this business. But what you’re doing to guys like Benoit and Malenko and Goldberg … good, hard-working guys who just want their shot in this business, the same way you wanted a shot when Harley Race and Terry Funk and Shohei Baba were on top. And I’m not saying I think guys like you—even me—need to retire, Ric … but there comes a point, ya know? I just don’t wanna be involved in issue your Administration has with the nWo.”
Flair holds up in hands, as if to say “I understand, say no more”. He approaches Sting and embraces him, giving a few manly claps on the back. When he pulls back, he says; “I love ya like a son, Stinger. We may have had our differences in the ring, but you’ve been a company man through and through, and I gotta respect that.”
Flair turns away, looks at Bret and gives a small but perceptible nod. Sting picks up on it, but knows its too late; the Administration swarms and overruns him. Even with the ball bat (which manages to get a piece of Hennig and Luger before being torn away by Bret), Sting is out-gunned, and is put on the canvas within seconds. All the while, Flair looks on, his face now as red as fire. “Then if you won’t join us, Sting,” Flair screams, “I’ll make sure you’re buried with that belt!” He faces the crowd, tearing his jacket off in the process. “This is what The Administration will do to every member of the New World Order, and everybody in WCW who doesn’t fall in line! I will not tolerate this kind of insubordination from anyone!” Flair wheels around, in time to see Bret putting Sting in the Sharpshooter. Flair gets down on the mat, inches from Sting, who is writhing in agony as Bret sits back, putting the pressure on Sting’s lower back. “You say you don’t wanna be involved, Sting? I can make your dreams come true—you’re fir—”
“That’s enough, Mr. Flair,” a voice says from the entrance. A well-dressed man flanked in security comes out. The security immediately dispatches to the ring, and Flair’s soldiers break away from Sting, who is pulled out by accompanying paramedics. The well-dressed man, Harvey Schiller, elects to stay put. “You’ve done enough damage to this company. I will not have you firing the reigning World Champion and vacating the title yet again to suit your selfish purposes. Effective immediately, Mister Flair, I am suspending your Presidential powers until March 15th; at such time, you will compete against your predecessor Eric Bischoff at WCW Uncensored in a Last Man Standing match, to determine the permanent President. And should you try to interfere in the course of tonight’s battle royal for the number-one contendership, I’ll see to it that you don’t even have the opportunity to wrestle at Uncensored.”
Flair’s suspension is great news for fans, giving plenty of heat as Nitro heads into its main event: the twenty-man battle royal for the World Title shot at Uncensored. But with Bam Bam Bigelow on his way to the hospital, Scott Hall having been arrested for the tazer attack, and Goldberg still not at the arena (due to, word has it, a delayed flight), replacements have to be named, so the final 20 are: Nash, Konnan (substituting for Goldberg), Disco Inferno (for Bigelow), Ernest Miller (for Scott Hall), Benoit, Malenko, Flair, Luger, Piper, Hennig, Windham, Buff Bagwell, Scott Steiner, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Raven, DDP, Wrath, Rick Steiner and Perry Saturn.
Within 20 seconds of the opening bell, Nash eliminates Disco and Miller. Scott Steiner eliminates Rick while Rick is trying to eliminate Buff. Saturn is the next to go, eliminated by Nash and Wrath. Malenko ends up getting double-teamed by Hennig and Windham and dumped, but Benoit comes up from behind and dumps Hennig (which leads to a brawl between Hennig and Malenko on the outside). Buff and Scott Steiner work on Wrath, finally getting rid of the monster with a double-clothesline; Bagwell stays to taunt Wrath, but ends up the victim of his own stupidity as none other than Scott Steiner tosses him over. Bagwell and Steiner get into an argument, and Flair uses the opportunity to eject Steiner. Steiner berates Flair from the floor for the double-cross (in a fine show of hypocrisy), and when referees try to escort him away, he starts swinging, taking down to refs. Officials are sent to the back to get security, but Steiner grabs Flair’s legs, trips him down and yanks him out the ring. By the time security can haul Steiner away, he has made Flair eat the steel steps, thrown him onto the barricade, and pummeled him with his freakish forearms. A big boot from Nash sends Flair’s buddy Windham over the top rope and down to the ground next to him, bringing the total participants left in the match to 10 (including Flair, lying motionless on the arena floor).
Luger and Piper try to marshal the remaining me against getting out the obvious favorite, Kevin Nash, but the lack of trust the Administration has fostered in WCW is not forgotten in the battle royal. Piper manages to eliminate Konnan before getting dumped himself by almost everyone in the ring (minus Luger and Nash, who are slugging it out on the other side of the ring). Jericho turns on DDP and tries to toss him out, but DDP lands on the apron; Jericho taps his forehead in smug satisfaction until DDP whistles to get his attention. Jericho charges, and DDP falls flat, pulling down the top rope; Jericho tumbles over, eliminating himself, while DDP rolls back in underneath the bottom rope. Booker comes over to help Nash deal with Luger, but Nash pushes Booker away. Booker tries for the jumping side kick, but Nash dodges, and Booker winds up straddling the top rope, a sitting duck for Nash to clothesline to the floor. With Booker gone, there are five people left in the ring, six counting Flair, who has finally stirred enough to stagger to a standing position.
But Flair doesn’t have enough wherewithal to recognize the very angry man in jeans and a black t-shirt leap out of the crowd; nor does he even have the time, for Goldberg pulverizes Flair with a spear before Flair can so much as blink. The crowd goes nuts for the sudden appearance of “Da Man”, who picks up Flair’s limp, lifeless body and throws in the ring. All action in the ring has virtually come to a halt as Goldberg cinches in the headlock, then lifts Flair up over his head and holds him there for what feels like an ungodly amount of time. A splendid sea of flashbulbs fills the arena as Goldberg finishes off his Jackhammer, sending Flair crashing into the canvas. No one bothers to stop Goldberg as he drags Flair over to the top rope and unceremoniously hurls him over the top rope. When the referees take no action to remove or invalidate the elimination, the action in the ring finally resumes, with Luger and Raven trying their hand at the fresh meat. Nash, however, pries Luger away from his pursuit of Goldberg, leaving Goldberg to deal with Raven, who finds himself on the outside of the ring looking in courtesy of a military press slam to the outside. DDP seizes his opportunity, spins around an unsuspecting Goldberg, and plants him with a picture-perfect Diamond Cutter. But no sooner is DDP standing and celebrating his felling of the monster then Goldberg is back up on his feet. DDP turns around in time to eat spear, and Goldberg puts him in position for the Jackhammer. But he is too close to the ropes, and DDP pulls on the rope as Goldberg hauls him up; the rope sends Goldberg’s load off-kilter, and DDP drops behind Goldberg on the apron, then reaches over and slugs Goldberg in the back of the head. Goldberg reels forward, but DDP isn’t prepared for Benoit, who hits DDP square in the mush with a dropkick that sends DDP back to the locker room, and whittles down the match to its final four: Benoit, Nash, Goldberg and Luger.
Immediately, all eyes turn to Luger, who tries to beg off the impending pain he is about to suffer. It surprises no one that none of the three men advancing on The Administration’s last, lone representative in the battle royal show Luger no mercy. Instead, Luger is not only punished but humiliated: Benoit locks in a Crippler Crossface for the better part of sixty long, agonizing seconds before turning Luger over to Nash for a Jackknife. Luger’s body barely finishes shaking from the impact before Goldberg is on him, picking him up and hoisting him high for a Jackhammer. After that, all three men take the pleasure of tossing him over without the least bit of struggle. The teamwork vanishes before Luger’s feet hit the arena floor, and Benoit takes it to Goldberg with flesh-searing chops across the chest. At first, Goldberg shrugs them off, but Benoit gives no pause between the strikes, and soon, Goldberg is being driven back, wincing with every blow as crimson welts form on his chest. Benoit has Goldberg fully backed into the corner and is unleashing a barrage of chops and kicks when Nash barrels forward, sandwiching Benoit in between the two big men, and crushing Goldberg under over 500 pounds of human being. Nash grabs Benoit and hurls him up and over, leaving the two rivals alone.
Goldberg staggers forward, meeting Nash in the center of the ring. For a few eternal seconds, there are no blows, no moves, no words—just two men, staring at one another with eyes cold as steel, both wanting to deny the other their shared goal of reclaiming the WCW World Title.
Goldberg is the first to strike, his fists working the torso of Nash so quickly, he cannot formulate a plan, let alone a simple block. Goldberg pushes Nash back until he is resting on the ropes, backs off a few steps, and charges. Nash lifts his massive boot and Goldberg runs headlong into it; Nash musters up enough strength to put Goldberg on the mat with a clothesline to the back of his head. Nash picks up Goldberg and puts him in position for the Jackknife, but Goldberg counters the with cheapest, but most effective, counter possible: a nutshot. Goldberg catches Nash before he can fall to the ground and hurls him into the ropes; when Nash comes back, Goldberg catches him and uses Nash’s momentum to propel them to the ropes. But Nash doesn’t let go and, before either can react in time to stop it, both men go tumbling over the top tope together. Nitro ends with the referees arguing over who eliminated who, and Nash and Goldberg glaring at one another.
The first Nitro of March (on March 1st), once again, stacked to the rafters with big matches and big developments for Uncensored: Bret Hart is slated to face Chris Benoit in a non-title challenge, Bam Bam Bigelow will get a crack at Scott Hall, and a major eight-man tag to cap things off, pitting Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Lex Luger and Scott Steiner against Eric Bischoff, Sting, Kevin Nash and Goldberg.
But for Bischoff, the night is interrupted, as Nash finds him not moments after the show’s opening in the locker room, face down and unconscious, a ball bat by his body. Medics check on him, and while confirmation doesn’t come for a while, its obvious Bischoff is out of the main event, and by whom, even with the ball bat present.
While the fact that it’s a non-title match makes everyone livid (obvious politicking on the part of The Administration), the Benoit/Hart match still has the air of a match with far-reaching implications. And by match’s end, it becomes evident why: for all of Bret Hart’s technical prowess and ability, for all his claims of being “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”, Benoit is just that much better. Quicker, more agile, more vicious and more persistent than Bret could ever was (is or will be), Benoit matches Bret move for move and then some; even a fake ankle injury by Bret doesn’t fool Benoit, who goes after the faux injury with every intention of turning it real. For fifteen long minutes, Bret finds himself on the defensive for virtually every minute: every move he makes is less offensive and more an attempt to buy himself time, or stop Benoit’s momentum so he can formulate a plan. But Benoit never lets up, punishing Bret with everything in his arsenal, from high-risk aerial moves like his swan dive head-butt to suplexes and piledrivers. Finally, after fifteen minutes of punishment, Benoit slaps on the Crossface; Bret manages to make it to the ropes, and Benoit releases the hold immediately (remembering the fiasco with Charles Robinson and the bullshit DQ). Bret bails and waves at Benoit and the ring in a dismissive gesture; while it isn’t a submission, it is a forfeiture, as Bret continues to walk away, and the count gets closer to 10. When the ref gets to 10, Bret turns around and gives Benoit the finger—he has managed to maintain his composure and dignity, and without giving Benoit the satisfaction of winning. But Benoit is not satisfied, and gives chase, catching up to Bret near the ramp with a forearm shot to the small of the back. Bret, not expecting the ambush, goes down in a heap, and Benoit follows his down, quickly reapplying the Crossface. This time, he doesn’t let go, no matter what the referees say or do. When one tries to approach close enough to pry his arms apart (as if he could), Benoit kicks wildly, all the while keeping his hold on the deadly submission move as tight as ever. He doesn’t let up when Bret taps—pounds—on the ground; not until Bret is crying—quite literally crying, as Benoit can feel the wetness of tears on his flesh—in submission, begging Benoit to release the painful hold, that it is too much for him to bear. Only then does Benoit release. And though the record books will record a count-out victory for Benoit, everyone else—especially Bret—knows it was a submission victory.
The Bigelow/Hall match, however, doesn’t provide near a thrilling conclusion or satisfactory end. Instead, it becomes a demonstration of how far the Administration will stoop to eradicate the New World Order (and anyone else who stands in their way). As the two competitors brawl and pummel one another, they are interrupted by something most confusing: their own nWo music. Lex Luger comes out, staggering as if he were drunk, his blonde locks dyed jet black and slicked, a toothpick in his mouth. In his hand is a microphone and a familiar object: the tazer. “Hey yo,” Luger says in a horrid faux-Hispanic accent. “Survey time … how many times will a moron fall for the same trick?” He smiles—although there is no humor in the grin—and says; “Looks like they will once again. Score one for the good guys.”
Windham and Hennig, who have been waiting behind the distracted Bigelow and Hall, strike with ball bats. Hall and Bigelow can’t even put up a fight against the two, and when Luger comes to the ring with the tazer and electrocutes the two, they have no chance of escape. Hennig, Windham and Luger eventually leave Hall and Bigelow bloodied and bruised, but not before adding one final insult: with a can of spray paint, Luger sprays a blood red “nWo” and a circle-slash over it, then beneath that a mockery of their “4-Life” slogan: “2 The Death”.
With that kind of lead-in, the main event—now a handicap 4-on-3 match—has a pallor cast over it: two of the nWo’s strongest members have been downed, and Bischoff, their President, is incapacitated. The match begins with Flair, Piper and Luger deciding to have a reluctant and irritated Steiner as the leadoff man against Nash. Nash tries to reason with Steiner about his being a tool of The Administration, but Steiner opts to attack instead of listening. Quick tags in and out keep Nash isolated and worn down, but when Nash finds a window of opportunity to hit some offense, somehow its always Steiner who ends up in the ring again, regaining control of the situation. The merry-go-round of punishment for Nash continues until Steiner makes the mistake of whipping him into the ropes near his own corner; Goldberg makes a blind tag and steps in. Steiner stops short when he sees Goldberg has come in, but Goldberg is already in motion, and collides with Steiner in a thunderous spear. The crowd pops big, and when Goldberg dares one of The Administration come to in and stop him from hitting the Jackhammer (while holding Steiner above his head), no one steps in. Goldberg drops Steiner down like a lead weight, but his pin is broken up by Flair. Goldberg tries to grab him, but Flair evades his clutches, which gives a fatigued Steiner the chance to fell Goldberg with a shot to the groin.
Steiner tags out to Luger, who sets to putting the hurt on Goldberg. But, like before, when Goldberg starts to mount any sort of comeback, Luger (or whomever the Administration wrestler happens to be) tags right back out to Steiner. Steiner taps Luger on the shoulder and asks the obvious question. When Luger shrugs his reply, Steiner replies with a physical motion as well: a hard shove. Luger shoves back, and Flair and Piper step in and separate the two before things get out of hand. When Piper, Flair and Luger all step out onto the apron, Goldberg blasts out nowhere and hits Steiner with another spear. Concern crosses the faces of The Administration, which turns to fear when Goldberg throws Steiner into his own corner and barks out one simple word: “TAG!”Steiner looks at Goldberg, who has backed away to the center of the ring. Steiner regards him a moment longer, then turns and tags Piper. No sooner is Piper in the ring and Steiner out than Piper smacks Steiner on the shoulder. Steiner glares at Piper, then steps in, and stuns everyone with a stiff, disrespectful slap across Piper’s face. He then walks back to the corner, tags in Flair and leaves. When Steiner drops down to the floor, Luger drops down with him, and the two start to argue. Luger shoves Steiner, and Steiner responds with a kick to Luger’s gut; Steiner grabs a handful of Luger’s hair, pulling him up close to his own face, yelling at him; “You wanna disrespect the Superstar? You think Scott Steiner is your chump?” Steiner hurls Luger shoulder-first into the steel steps, then looks at Piper and Flair, standing slack-jawed in the ring, and punctuates a middle finger with an audible (although it shouldn’t be) “Fuck you, y’old cocksucker!”
Flair and Piper are in too much of a state of shock to even remember they’re in a match, and when Piper turns around, he eats a spear. Goldberg pops right back up and points at Flair, who is shaking his head and holding up his hands, begging for mercy. Goldberg doesn’t give any, and charges for another spear. But Flair, ever the crafty veteran, pulls the referee in front of him, and the ref takes the brunt of the spear. Goldberg barely notices the error he’s made (since Flair took enough of the hit to put him on the ground, holding his stomach), and goes back to his corner; he motions to Nash and the crowd pops. But when he motions to Sting, the whole place becomes an erupting volcano of noise, and Goldberg makes the tag.
Sting stalks Flair, and when Flair struggles to his knees and sees his old adversary, he begs for leniency again. Sting, having been Flair’s fool before, is no fool tonight, and goes on the attack. A whip into the corner leads to a Stinger Splash, and Flair gets another one in the opposite corner. A third whip into the corner sends Flair up and out, and Sting—knowing this move, too, like all of Flair’s moves—clotheslines him down and to the arena floor. Sting chases Flair down to the floor, and Sting’s teammates leave their posts (since there is no ref anyway), with Nash headed for Piper and Goldberg for Luger.
But Sting’s advantage evaporates, as Flair reverses an Irish Whip into the barricade. Flair bashes Sting’s head on the steel post before tossing him back in the ring. Sting gets to his feet, holding his aching head, but Flair drops him with an illegal (no ref, no rules) kick to the balls. Flair grabs Sting’s legs, gives a “whoo!” to the crowd, and applies his figure-four. Sting immediately rears up, refusing to give in … but his help—Nash and Goldberg—are busy with Luger and Piper on the outside, and he is locked tight. Sting refuses to surrender, and when he sees a replacement zebra, salvation, the ropes, seems only inches away. But when he reaches for them, and the referee kicks his arm away, Sting knows the deck has been stacked too tall to climb. Sting leans forward and tries to punch his way out of the move, but has no sooner thrown a punch than Charles Robinson signals to the timekeeper to ring the bell. Only the crowd hears that Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Lex Luger and Scott Steiner have won by disqualification due to Sting’s use of a closed fist; the competitors are too busy brawling.
But the return of Scott Steiner, armed with a ball bat, gets attention. Piper, having downed Nash with a steel chair, sees Steiner come down the aisle and makes a beeline for him; Steiner meets him with a Babe Ruth swing-for-the-fences right into Piper’s gut. Piper crumbles like a thousand year old piece of paper in the rain, and Steiner walks right past him, headed right for Luger. Luger, who has stopped the onslaught of Goldberg by strangling him with broadcast cable, dodges the first swing, but the second—a home run blast to the small of the back—drops Luger like a bad habit. Luger rolls over and gets another blast of bat, this time in the gut, and Steiner leaves him on the floor, coughing up blood, and gets in the ring, where Flair still has Sting in the figure-four. Charles Robinson tries to stall Steiner, but the referee is a mere stick figure next to the freakishly large Steiner, who disposes of Robinson as if he were little more than a mosquito. Steiner walks up to Flair, who looks up and sees the enraged Superstar, and realizes he has no escape. Steiner doesn’t even let Flair get a word of begging out; he just wallops Flair in the gut and chest, over and over. Flair’s legs loosen, and Sting untangles himself and pushes away, watching the pent-up rage of Steiner pour out through the bat. Finally, the savage beating gets to Sting, and he gets up and steps in, catching the bat and ripping it from Steiner’s hands. Sting throws the belt out of the ring and just looks at Steiner, standing gamely on one leg. Steiner yells at Sting, who just stands there, saying nothing, until Steiner snaps, seizes Sting and tosses him across the ring with an explosive belly-to-belly suplex. The crowd, before a barely-contained riot as Steiner mowed through Flair and his associates, now deflates, unable to process what they’ve seen; Steiner has, single-handedly, taken out virtually everyone in the ring. Nitro ends with Steiner walking away from the ring, leaving behind the carnage he has wrought.
The final Nitro before Uncensored features more build-up for the pay-per-view, signing more matches that harken back to Uncensored’s original format of all gimmick matches: Bret Hart is ordered to face Chris Benoit in an I Quit match for the US Title; Scott Hall and Bam Bam Bigelow get Roddy Piper and Lex Luger in a Tornado “Tazers and Bats” match, with the familiar weapons hung from hooks above the ring and Dean Malenko gets Curt Hennig in a steel cage.
But questions abound regarding two matches and the one man at the center of both: Kevin Nash. And so, to clear up the confusion, Mean Gene introduces Dr. Harvey Schiller, who invites Nash to the ring. Nash comes forth, his usual look of mirth and good humor nowhere present.
“Mr. Nash,” Schiller says, “I have been in communication with the championship committee of World Championship Wrestling for the past two weeks, trying to iron out the issue of your match at Uncensored.”
Nash leans in, and Gene points the microphone at Nash. “With all due respect, Dr. Schiller, I really don’t give much of a damn about your committee. I’m number one contender. I won the shot at Sting, and I’m getting it at Uncensored.”
“But it’s not that simple, Mr. Nash. There are two issues at the heart of this: the first is that there was no clear winner in the battle royal. We have reviewed the tapes from numerous angles time and again, and we cannot conclude either you or Bill Goldberg made contact with the ground before the other. This has left us with only one conclusion: that both you and Goldberg won the battle royal, and are both equally deserving of a World Title shot against Sting at Uncensored.”
The audience goes nuts for this idea (and Nash is smiling big), but Schiller raises a hand to try and quiet them down. “If I could be allowed to speak … there is a second problem, a much larger one. That is the issue of Hollywood Hogan.” The crowd gives the mention of Hogan’s name a rousing dose of hatred. “You volunteered yourself for an unsanctioned match against Hollywood Hogan at Uncensored this Sunday. Hollywood Hogan’s lawyers have responded that he is willing to fight you, and the contracts have been drawn up to allow this match to participate on the pay-per-view, with WCW merely providing the referee and location. But a match of this nature is bound to get out of hand, and injuries are likely, Mr. Nash, and that jeopardizes your World Title match. So, we are at an impasse.”
Nash shrugs. “I’m not seeing the problem here, doc. I got two matches, so what?”
“So, we cannot accept the liability or legal entanglements that could arise from you injuring yourself in one or both matches. The legalities could be disastrous for WCW, and the loss of you as a performer would cripple this company.”
Nash nods in understanding, stroking his goatee. He paces the ring a bit while Mean Gene echoes the dangers of competing in a street fight, then a triple-threat against Goldberg and Sting. Finally, he comes back to the meeting and says forcefully; “Why don’t you let me worry about wrestling two matches?”
“Go back and talk to the suits, Harvey. You tell them Big Sexy promises he can beat the stuffing out of some blown-up old has-been like Hogan and still have enough in the tank to handle Goldberg and Sting. If they still quake in their Jockeys, then draw up a new contract; one where I absolve WCW of the consequences of me wrestling twice. I will not give up one for the other, you dig?” Schiller opens his mouth to argue, but Nash makes a snapping-shut motion with his hand, and Schiller closes his mouth, ending the situation, and resolving the biggest issue of the pay-per-view.
March 14th: Uncensored
To give Nash enough time to recuperate (should he even be able to continue), the unsanctioned street fight opens the show. Hogan shows up in street clothes: a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt and boots, further hammering home that this will not be a wrestling match at all. And very early in, the point is proven, as punches and brawling dominate. Nash makes the attempt early on for a Jackknife—the first real maneuver of the match—but Hogan counters with a low blow, dropping Nash. Hogan immediately heads outside and starts tossing in all manners of objects: chairs, a fire extinguisher from under the ring, the ring bell and even the timekeeper’s hammer, which he uses first to bash at Nash’s hands. The ref’s pleas to stop are ignored, and Hogan continues pounding with the hammer until he gets a better idea—he grabs the chair, puts it under Nash’s hand, and crushes Nash’s hand like a grape under a tire. Hogan tosses aside the hammer, strips off his belt and starts to whip Nash. Red welts raise even through Nash’s tank top as the leather strap tattoo his back with stripes of pain. Hogan keeps whipping until Nash rolls into his saving grace: the fire extinguisher. He grabs it (with his good hand), and swings at Hogan’s legs, and Hogan crumples. Nash gets up, grabs the chair and proceeds to beat Hogan until he rolls out of the ring. The fight continues outside, with both men trading forms of violence, opening up wounds on one another from impacts with steel posts, tables and steps. The back-and-forth carnage continues when they get back in the ring, and Hogan slowly obtains the upper hand by continuing to work on the injured hand of Nash with various weapons, stomps and even biting. But Nash manages to reverse an Irish Whip, and when Hogan eats some Nash boot, Nash mocks Hogan’s old ear-to-the-hand signal for the finish; Nash checks all four corners of the arena and finds a validating opinion in all four. But Nash’s version of the Big Legdrop only gets two, so Nash sets up Hogan for a Jackknife; but, like before, this gets him a shot in the nuts. Hogan grabs the belt from the mat, quickly wraps it around his head buckle-out, grabs Nash by the hair, measures and delivers a solid haymaker between the eyes. Nash hits the mat, out before his back is flat, and to the shock of everyone, Hogan gets the pin.
The dejection suffered by Hogan’s unexpected victory is only increased when Hall & Bigelow fail to beat Piper & Luger (thanks in part to their third man, Barry Windham), and Dean Malenko loses to Curt Hennig in a steel cage (also thanks to Barry Windham). With the record at 0-3 for the night, the nWo seems to not only be showing they can’t hang with the veterans after all, but barely even deserve to be competing with them.
Then comes Benoit/Hart.
Their I Quit match picks up almost where their Nitro confrontation left off: with Benoit all over Hart like a storm drenching the earth. Hart can barely counter, let alone mount an offense, against the ferocity with which Benoit brings to the match; every chop paints a red stripe across Hart’s chest, and every maneuver seems to be delivered with extra hatred and intensity. The only way Hart can turn the tide is by taking advantage of the no-DQ stipulations and using every dirty tactic he can to ground Benoit. From chair shots (which Hart uses extensively, wearing Benoit down into a fine, welted pulp) to blatant choking (using wiring on the floor to rob Benoit of oxygen), Hart finally seems to turn a corner, even if he is fighting with an un-Bret-like lack of strategy. Only when Benoit is safely on the mat and writhing in pain does Bret feel safe enough to hit a real wrestling maneuver, and the excellently executed piledrivers, backbreakers and leg sweeps only add to the overall doom that has pervaded the evening. With every impact, Bret makes sure to grab the microphone and demand Benoit quit, who always responds with “Never!” Eventually, Hart drags Benoit to the middle of the ring and taunts the crowd by taking his time applying the Sharpshooter. First, he spreads Benoit’s legs, then casually puts his leg through.
The reversal occurs so quickly, Bret barely has time to register; Benoit suddenly sits up and with both hands, grabs the leg Bret has stepped through with. Bret stands slack-jawed, Benoit’s legs in his hands, as Benoit pulls on Bret’s leg with every ounce of strength he has left. Bret teeters and wobbles, but doesn’t fall until Benoit frees up one hand to punch Bret in the knee. Bret teeters more, and Benoit uses both hands to finally pull Bret’s leg out from under him. Bret hits the ground, and Benoit tightens his legs around Bret’s leg, turning the Sharpshooter into a leg grapevine. Benoit sits forward and pounds on Bret’s knee again and again, screaming at him to quit, but Bret will do no such thing. Benoit torques on the leg until it becomes obvious that Bret will not surrender that way, and Benoit transitions the hold into another submission maneuver: Bret’s own Sharpshooter. The agony is writ large on Bret’s face, but even his own devastating finishing hold, which had earned him many a victory and title, will not put Bret out of the match. Finally, after what seems like forever (a good four minutes in the Sharpshooter), Benoit releases that and floats up to Bret’s upper body to apply one more submission maneuver: The Crippler Crossface. Bret is now barely able to utter denials and, as seconds fade into moments, the life disappears from Bret Hart until his eyes roll back and his body goes slack in Benoit’s arms. The referee checks Bret’s arm, and when it drops for the third time, the audience whips into a frenzy as the referee declared Chris Benoit the new United States Champion.
The World Title match follows, and Goldberg is the first to enter. The Wolfpac song plays for Nash, and after a few heart-stopping moments of will-he-won’t-he, Nash parts the curtain and walks to the ring—his hand is bandaged, and he walks slower than normal, obvious pain in every step. Sting is the last in, and enters the ring to see Nash and Goldberg locked in a stare-down. Sting wastes no time in attacking Nash, the weakest link of the three, and Goldberg joins in, taking turns hitting moves on Nash for what feels like an eternity (several minutes, at least), until Sting goes for the pin. Goldberg pulls him off, and Sting retaliates with a kick to the gut. Goldberg and Sting start to duke it out, ignoring Nash, who is rolling into the safety and anonymity of the corner to watch his opponents do his work for him. But when Sting throws Goldberg into the ropes, Goldberg comes back with a spear; Nash gets up and clobbers Goldberg in the back of the head. Nash brings him over to the turnbuckle and throws him shoulder-first into the ring post, softening up his spearing shoulder. Nash sets about working on the shoulder, and when Sting recovers, he joins in … until he attacks Nash, and then those two go at it for awhile, trading blows and control of the match while Goldberg nurses his shoulder. Sting eventually gets the upper hand on Nash and works on weakening his hand even further. After several minutes of Sting on the offensive, he slips behind Nash and drops him with a Scorpion Death Drop, and goes for the pin, only to be interrupted by a kick from Goldberg. Goldberg whips Sting into the ropes and tears through him with another spear; when he signals for the Jackhammer, the crowd goes into hysterics. Goldberg picks up Sting over his head, but Sting wiggles out and drops behind Goldberg; he wraps an arm around Goldberg’s head and drops down, hitting his second Scorpion Death Drop, but too exhausted to make the pin himself. All three men eventually rise at the same time, and Nash makes the first (cheap) offensive move by sneaking up behind Goldberg and dropping him with a blatant low blow; he then gives Goldberg a shove, who goes through the ropes and tumbling out of the ring. Sting tries to kick, but Nash catches it, spins Sting around, gets a kick of his own, and as quick as lightening, puts Sting in position for the Jackknife and hits. By the time Goldberg realizes what’s going on, he can’t stop the referee from counting to three and crowning Kevin Nash the new champion. Nash celebrates his victory, but Goldberg’s cold glare at Nash says it all, though: we’re not through, it says.
Last up on the evening is the Last Man Standing battle for the Presidency, and, for the bulk of it’s 10 minutes, it is an ugly slugfest reminiscent of the Hogan/Nash match; Flair ends up busted open, his hair dyed red in short time, and Bischoff as well, staining his karate gee crimson. The action is back and forth for the match’s duration with few falls counted, until the end; Flair, having worked on the legs with kicks, chairs and everything he can find, locks Bischoff in a figure-four, looking to literally keep Bischoff from standing. Flair has Bischoff in it for two minutes before he lets go, assuming the damage is done and he has won. He doesn’t pay attention to the crowd’s murmuring and confused reaction as Scott Steiner makes his way to the ringside area. Behind him—even more confusing—are DDP and Buff Bagwell. The ref sees them coming and tries to stop them, but Steiner pushes the ref away and goes after Flair with suplexes and fists. Bagwell fetches a chair and gives it to Steiner, who bashes Flair’s brains in, while DDP picks up the hobbling Bischoff and drops him with Diamond Cutter. Steiner points to DDP and to Flair, and DDP gives one to Flair as well.
Suddenly, the crowd goes nuts, and Steiner, Bagwell and DDP turn to see why: Sting is coming to the ring, armed with a ball bat. He slides in the ring, and Steiner pushes his buddies back, urging Sting to bring it to him. Sting glares at him a moment longer, then unleashes with a volley of shots to the helpless Flair. After Flair has absorbed enough blows to render him unconscious, Flair moves to Bischoff and does the same; all the while, Steiner, Bagwell and DDP cheer him on. When he is done, Sting joins the other three, arms raised in the air as if victorious, then leave the ring, walking backwards as they watch the referee make his count. When the ref reaches ten, and neither man has moved so much as an eyelid, they all clap and cheer. The event ends with their prideful celebration of ruining the main event, while the announcers are almost speechless in their confusion: what is going through the mind of Sting? And who’s President?
Our story resumes on Nitro the following night. Kevin Nash has regained the WCW World Championship, pinning Sting in a three-way dance only a few hours after losing a bloody battle with Hollywood Hogan. Nash’s opponent for Spring Stampede has to be decided, and there’s no shortage of eligible contenders. But the Presidency of the company remains unresolved, and Sting, Scott Steiner and DDP have a lot of explaining to do regarding that …
March 15th: Nitro
Nitro, Tony Schiavone is pleased to tell the audience, is stacked to the rafters with big matches a mere 24 hours removed from Uncensored: Bam Bam Bigelow and Wrath are slated to face Barry Windham and Curt Hennig, Bret Hart gets a piece of Goldberg and Chris Benoit defends his newly-won US Title against good friend Dean Malenko. Plus, a special message from Dr. Harvey Schiller will resolve the issue of the Presidency of WCW, and name Kevin Nash’s first opponent.
Mean Gene Okerlund kicks off the show from the ring, and gets no more than a couple words into a sentence when music—the music of Sting—cuts him off. Okerlund blathers on about how this isn’t scheduled, but Sting—accompanied by Scott Steiner and Diamond Dallas Page—come to the ring. Mean Gene approaches them and is ready to ask what they’re doing in the ring, but Sting’s eyes broadcast a simple command to Okerlund: leave now Okerlund does, handing the microphone over to Sting on the way out.
“No matter where I went today, no matter what I did, everybody kept asking the Stinger the same question: ÔWhat were you thinking?'” Sting chuckles, but it’s humorless and, in a way, creepy. “I’ll tell ya what I was thinking. See, for the past couple months, WCW has been a battleground. On one side, we have my old buddy, Ric Flair and his Administration, trying to kill off the competition and hoard the spotlight for themselves. On the other side is Kevin Nash, Eric Bischoff and the New World Order. The Stinger has a lot of history with both sides of this fight … some good, most of it bad. But for the past few months, both sides have had something in common: they both claim to be fighting for the best interest of WCW. Flair says the tradition and legacy of the company needs to be preserved, and Bischoff says the young guys like Benoit and Goldberg are being unfairly crushed and kept down by Flair and Hogan and their friends.”
Sting pauses to survey the crowd, who are all hanging on Sting’s every word. When he speaks again, his voice is a lion’s roar. “They’re all a bunch of lying bastards!” Sting turns to DDP. “Did you ever ask either Bischoff or Flair to speak for you, Page?” When Page shakes his head, Sting looks at Steiner. “What about you, Superstar? Did you ever ask Flair or Bischoff to fight for your honor?” Steiner’s hell, no! is audible over the mike even without it being near his mouth. “People keep asking us ÔWho do you represent? What side are you on?'” Sting points towards the entrance. “See those letters? W-C-W. That’swhose side I’m on. Do any of you really think nWo or Flair’s Administration are in this for such a noble cause as protecting WCW? Flair’s in this for the same reason he’s been doing this for over fifteen years: the WCW World Championship. Same thing with Hogan, Piper, Nash, Hall, Goldberg and everybody in the locker room. There isn’t a man back there who doesn’t dream of being World Champ; the only difference here between the New World Order, The Administration and the rest of us is that us guys in the middle are honest about it; if I gotta beat Page or Steiner to get my belt back, I’ll do it. And they’d do the same. Bischoff and Flair, they couldn’t care less about what the fans want, or the guys in their gangs. They’re greedy, self-serving selfish pigs who only have one real goal: beating the other guy at their own game. Bischoff, Nash, Flair, Hogan and the rest of them care about one person: themselves. So you ask me where the Stinger stands? The same place the Stinger has always stood. What’s going through the Stinger’s head? Same thing that’s always been in the Stinger’s head: I want to be World Champion, and I’m not sucking up to anyone to get there.
Sting hands off the microphone to Steiner, who bellows with the anger of an enraged rhino. “New World Order! Administration! Nobody asked you to lead WCW, and nobody wants you to lead WCW! The Superstar, the Stinger and DDP won’t let you run over us like roadkill! WCW has had enough of the nWo, and enough of The Administration!”
Page takes the stick, his usual sneer on his face. “Ric Flair! Hollywood-scum-Hogan! Hall, Nash, Bischoff! We aren’t gonna let you run WCW, and the boys in the back, into the ground while you bicker night in and night out! You think you got a problem with each other?” DDP makes his trademark diamond hand gesture, then breaks it apart with a “BANG! You ain’t had to deal with WCW yet.”
Bigelow & Wrath get past the Administration’s Windham & Hennig, although the win is bittersweet; Hennig and Windham attack with chairs after the match ends and leave them unconscious and spray-painted with the now-familiar slashed-out nWo logo on their backs. High up in the audience, the proceedings are witnessed by Sting, Steiner and DDP, their faces masks of stoicism.
Their stoicism remains during the technical masterpiece put on by Malenko and Benoit over the US Title. For twenty long minutes, the two good friends trade blows and maneuvers, both failing to outsmart or outwrestle one another; every chop from Benoit earns him one in kind from Malenko, and every submission hold is rolled through, countered or twisted into a different one. But, like the match before, the Administration has to have the last word, and Bret Hart and Lex Luger end up causing the match to be thrown out. Benoit and Malenko are left in ruin, spray-painted and humiliated, and Bret and Luger leave with the smug satisfaction of having eliminated two of the most promising young stars in the New World Order. All the while, the triumvirate in the crowds remain as still as statues.
Shortly before the Goldberg/Bret Hart main event, Dr. Schiller comes to the ring. In his hands are a microphone and a couple sheets of paper. The crowd quiets down in anticipation of what Schiller has to say, for the future of the company—the leadership of the company—is riding on it.
Schiller clears his throat, then brings the microphone into place and begins to read from the first paper. “First of all, I’d like to congratulate ÔBig Sexy’ Kevin Nash on once again becoming WCW World Heavyweight Champion last night at WCW Uncensored.” When the cheers subside, Schiller continues. “However, events at last night’s event complicate naming an opponent for Kevin Nash at Spring Stampede, namely that Kevin Nash lost to Hollywood Hogan earlier in the night.” A chorus of boos cut of Schiller, who has to wait until they die down before he can resume. “However, the match between Hollywood Hogan and Kevin Nash was unsanctioned by WCW. Simultaneously, Bill Goldberg was not involved with the pinfall decision in last night’s triple threat match, but he did lose. However, he has yet to receive his contractually promised rematch. Added to that is the issue that Sting also is contractually bound to receive a rematch at some point in the near future. Therefore, it is the determination of the championship committee that, next week on Nitro, Hollywood Hogan will have his first match back from his length contract dispute, and it will be against Sting. The winner of that match will join Bill Goldberg in challenging Kevin Nash at Spring Stampede.”
Once the crowd settles down from that announcement (and Schiller switches papers), Schiller clears his throat again. “The second matter of discussion involves the Presidency of WCW. Last night at Uncensored, due to the actions of Scott Steiner, Sting and Diamond Dallas Page, the Last Man Standing match between Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair resulted in a tie. Executives from WCW and TurnerSports have reviewed the tapes and all potential legal issues regarding this highly volatile issue, and it is an issue that required a hasty resolution. Therefore, it is the decis—”
Schiller’s voice is drowned out by the music of Sting, who comes out with DDP and Steiner along side. The trio slide into the ring, and Schiller immediately backs up. “I don’t need to remind you of who I am, gentle—”
Sting, who has pulled a microphone from his trenchcoat, gets right in Schiller’s face. “Shut up.” The crowd bursts into cheers as Sting paces back and forth. “Did you listen to us earlier, doc? Did you hear a word we had to say?” Sting gets back in Schiller’s face, their noses almost touching. “We don’t want Bischoff or Flair in charge.” Sting backs away, but Schiller looks like he’s ready to piss his pants in fright. “WCW needs one of them as President like I need to be hit in the head with a chair. But you could care less, right, Schiller? You’re perfectly happy, sitting in your plush office CNN Towers, letting two corrupt, morally bankrupt cancers like Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair fight it out over who gets to drive this company into the ground, so long as tickets keep selling, right? Did you bother to ask the boys who they want as President? I bet you didn’t. I bet you couldn’t care less. Well, let me tell you something, Doctor Schiller—you can have those two idiots face each other at every event from now into infinity, and me, Page and Steiner will make sure every last damn match ends in a no contest until you wise up.”
Schiller composes himself (wiping the nervous beads of sweat off his brow and even taking a brave—for him—step towards Sting) “And what would you have me do instead? Hand over the Presidency to someone you declare is worthy?”
Sting smiles. “How about letting someone else into the match, to represent WCW?”
“Do you have someone in mind, or are you graciously going to accept the honor yourself?”
Sting chuckles, but again, Sting’s laugh is humorless and chilling. “Very funny, Schiller. How about we make it democratic? Let the wrestlers pick.”
Schiller mulls it over for a moment. Finally, after a few drawn-out moments of suspense, Schiller nods. “Fine then. Next week here on Nitro, there will be an election to nominate a third person to compete for the Presidency of WCW. The winner will face Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair at Spring Stampede.” Sting mulls over the decision with his partners, who all give their endorsement. Sting shakes Schiller’s hand and leaves without any further words on the topic.
But the good feelings are quickly wiped away as the main event kicks in, as it becomes obvious The Administration aren’t messing around anymore. Their plan, a systematic and total decimation of all people associated with the New World Order, continues to unfold when members of The Administration come to the aid of Bret as he reels from a Goldberg spear. Goldberg manages to take out Luger and Piper, but as the numbers mount against him—Windham, Hennig, Flair, Arn Anderson and even Hollywood Hogan—even Goldberg falls to the combined might. Even when Benoit and Malenko come to try and even the odds, they find themselves outnumbered, and Nitro ends with the grim visage of Goldberg being beaten on by Hogan (and held down by half the Administration), Malenko tied up in a figure-four by Flair, and Benoit locked in Bret’s Sharpshooter.
March 22nd: Nitro
Nitro’s opening shot is of quite the peculiar sight: a line of wrestlers, from masked luchadores to people like Raven, monsters like Wrath and anyone else not affiliated with either of the opposing camps, registering at a table manned by Doug Dillenger, picking up ballots and waiting for their turn to cast their votes in the privacy of a curtained booth. Tony Schiavone screams about how history is in the making as Nitro’s opening graphic rolls, ushering in what is promised to be a pivotal episode for the future of World Championship Wrestling. In addition to the ballot results (to be read by the legendary Dusty Rhodes), Hogan and Sting will battle for the third spot in the World Title match at Spring Stampede (with Nash acting as guest referee), Scott Steiner and DDP team up to take on Windham and Hennig, and a six-man tag pitting Goldberg, Malenko and Benoit against Bret, Luger and Flair.
And no time is wasted by WCW in solving one of its issues, as Sting and Hollywood Hogan’s match is slated first. Nash views his job as referee as one of little output, choosing to let the competitors bend the rules as they choke, punch and use every dirty trick in the book in their quest for a World Title shot, and for a while, Sting managed to shrug off everything Hogan can bring and has the upper hand. But a shot to the crotch drops the Stinger, and Hogan immediately sets about putting the boots to his old nemesis. Nash is content to let the beating continue (even when Hogan is blatantly using closed fists on Sting’s head), but steps in when Hogan tears off his weight belt and tries to whip Sting with it, and that incurs Hogan’s wrath, which gives Nash a hearty shove. Nash ignores it and turns away, but Hogan grabs Nash and hauls him back around, yelling at Nash’s interference. Nash tries to ignore it, but Hogan reaches out and slaps Nash right across the cheek. Nash fumes a moment, then suddenly swings (forgetting he is still holding, buckle out, the weight belt); Hogan ducks and the blow lands right on the jawbone of dazed Sting, dropping him once again. Hogan quickly realizes the chance and covers Sting. Nash hems and haws for a moment before getting down and issuing a slow three-count. The crowd is left silent at the reaction, shocked at what has just happened. Hogan, however, could care less, and celebrates like he’s won the title and not just a shot. Nash stands back and watches Hogan’s ridiculous carrying on before he can stand it no more, and delivers a stiff boot to the gut when Hogan turns to face him. Nash grabs Hogan before he can catch his wind, hauls him up and drops him with a vicious Jackknife. The crowd knows how to respond to that, and Nash leaves the ring—as well as Sting and Hogan—to cheers.
The announcers get some face time to update the viewers on the format, rules and status of the “election”. The rules, Schiavone explains, are that all WCW wrestlers—save for members of the New World Order and The Administration—are eligible to vote. In all, there are nine candidates—Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, Kevin Sullivan, Lou Thesz, JJ Dillon, Nikita Koloff and Magnum TA—as well as a write-in slot, which can be used on anyone, past or present, in WCW, save for members of the nWo and Administration. As Steiner and DDP make their way to the ring for their match, Schiavone explains that close to three-fourths of WCW have cast their votes so far, and updates will continue throughout the show.
Before Hennig and Windham make their way out, DDP grabs a mike. “Pay attention, Dr. Schiller! We want you to pay real … close … attention to this match. You know why? WCW has a long history of tag-team wrestling, and Scott Steiner and me are sickened at how it has been ignored and forgotten. The Superstar and I, we’re here to represent WCW, and Scotty …” DDP gives Steiner a clap on the shoulder. “I can think of no better way then to bring back the Tag Titles. Whattya think?”
Steiner takes the microphone and adds his opinion to the mix. “Hennig and Windham! Bam Bam Bigelow and Wrath! I don’t care if you get two of those little masked guys in a team … come on down and try and beat the best team WCW has to offer!” Hennig and Windham race down to the ring, and a full-scale brawl ensues. Steiner and Windham pair off, slugging their way out of the ring and brawling into the crowd. DDP and Hennig’s brawl heads up the ramp and into the locker room, and eventually, the referee has to throw out the match (which barely started in the first place).
The main event also begins as a donnybrook, with all six men battling in the ring. The nWo team gives the crowd a nice moment (and a good send-off to a commercial) when Flair, Bret and Luger are all driven out of the ring and to the arena floor, leaving Goldberg, Benoit and Malenko in the ring to taunt and mock the Administration members and play to the crowd. Eventually, the Administration regroups and comes back, and the match begins properly, with Luger starting off against Goldberg. Goldberg overpowers Luger, and quick tags to Benoit and Malenko keep the momentum going in favor of the New World Order, using their scientific prowess and Goldberg’s raw strength to make putty of The Total Package. But a blind tag by to Flair on a toss into the ropes catches Benoit off guard, and The Administration takes over.
Benoit is made to suffer punishment beyond reproach, as Flair, Luger and Bret takes turns dismantling the technical wizard body part by body part. Through constant wear-down holds and targeted strikes, Flair and Bret turn Benoit’s legs into jelly, while Luger uses brute force to inflict general pain, and rob Benoit of his wind. The punishment continues for what feels like forever to the audience (and for Benoit, even longer).
No one notices that Sting, Steiner and DDP are vanished from their upper-deck outpost.
The punishment continues until Bret makes the mistake of going for his patented second-rope elbow. Benoit rolls away, and Bret crashes down on his arms. Benoit crawls over to his corner, but to his horror, finds it empty—Malenko and Goldberg have dropped to the mat to head off the oncoming reinforcements of Roddy Piper, Windham and Hennig. Benoit stares in disbelief, yelling to get their attention, but Goldberg and Malenko are too focused on the yelling match they’re engaged in with the Administration flunkies to hear Benoit’s cries for help. Meanwhile, Bret has finally rolled back and made the tag to Flair, who drags Benoit away by the legs and goes for the figure-four.
Flair never sees it, but all around him, hell breaks loose. The war of words with Goldberg and Malenko and The Administration turns into a fistfight (drawing the attention of the referee, part of the plan all along). But Luger and Bret are likewise occupied by the surprise of Scott Steiner and DDP coming through the audience and blasting them with chairs. The crowd’s screams do nothing to draw Flair’s attention, which is singularly focused on the goal of finishing off the legs of The Crippler once and for all. So much so, in fact, that he never notices man ascending the turnbuckle to his left. And until he sees video of it, he will never know that it was the elbow of Macho Man Randy Savage that stabbed into his chest, driving the wind out from his lungs and sending splotches of black to cloud his sight.
The crowd’s frenzy gets even louder when Savage pulls off his shirt to reveal another shirt beneath, striped black and white—a referee’s shirt. Benoit frees himself from the tangle of Flair’s legs and drapes an arm across Flair. He never hears Savage count to three and order the timekeeper to ring the bell. And when Sting drops from the rafters, attaches a harness to Benoit and drags him back up to safety, he doesn’t notice that either. But the crowd witnesses it all, amidst the all-out chaos of DDP, Sting and Savage laying waste to anyone and everyone that moves—agents of WCW, making a true stand against the oppressive force of The Administration and the deceptive, questionable New World Order.
It is only the recognizable patois of Dusty Rhodes that can cut through the chaos, and indeed, all activity shuts down when Dusty yells over the noise of the crowd and the fighting.
“My friends!” says Dusty, his familiar accent mangling a syllable here and dropping a letter there. He holds up a sealed envelope and says; “The people …WCW has spoken! And right here in my litty-bitty hand, I have the results! The man WCW has chosen to go to war against the likes of Ric Flair and Eric Bischoff! The man WCW wants as their leader and President!” Dusty sticks a finger in the envelope and breaks the seal, blows the envelope open, and removes the results. He reads them over, and a smile as big as his home state dawns on his face. He looks up, first at the ring, then above him, towards the rafters. “The man WCW has chosen as their representative … with 95% of the vote … is the man called STING!“
March 29th and April 4th: Nitro
The build-up to Spring Stampede continues on the last two episodes of Nitro before the massive PPV. On the March 29th episode, Tony Schiavone delivers two announcements: the first, that Randy Savage has been granted status as a WCW official, specifically to officiate the WCW World Championship match at Spring Stampede. Second, that the championship committee has decided to reinstate the World Tag Team Titles, and institutes an eight-team tournament to begin immediately (with the finals to occur at Spring Stampede), and names the eight teams participating: Steiner & DDP, Windham & Hennig, Billy Kidman & Chavo Guerrero Jr., Fit Finlay & Dave Taylor, Wrath & Bam Bam Bigelow, Benoit & Malenko, Raven & Saturn and Horace Hogan & Bryan Adams.
The first round of the tournament sees Steiner & DDP roll past Finlay & Taylor; their opponents turn out to be Raven & Saturn, who do away with Hogan & Adams. The other side of the bracket features Wrath & Bigelow, who eliminate Kidman & Guerrero, and their opponents, Hennig & Windham, who beat Benoit & Malenko.
But the Hennig/Windham victory is overshadowed by the events in the match, as neither man seem to be on the same page, and Malenko constantly shoots dirty looks at Benoit. Finally, after miscommunication between Malenko and Benoit cause their loss (a mistimed missile dropkick by Benoit connects with Malenko instead of Hennig), Benoit and Malenko get in a shoving match. In no time, shoves and insults become fists and feet, and the two are going at it as bitterly as can be imagined. Only the interruption of Bigelow and Wrath (pulling Malenko away) and DDP & Steiner (keeping Benoit held back) keep the two from tearing one another limb from limb. Finally, they both calm down enough to act civilized, and Malenko gets a mike.
“What’re you thinking, Chris?” he asks plaintively. “First Sting comes out of the rafters like Batman and whisks you to safety … and now, you got these guys backing you up? What’s gotten into you?”
Instead of Benoit answering, it is DDP. “The question you should be asking is, what’s with you, Dean Malenko? Look around you … what do you see? Running buddies? Friends?” DDP shakes his head. “Bigelow and Wrath want the same thing you want. There are no real friends in the New World Order. You think Bischoff and Nash and Goldberg care about you? Do you see them out here? Were they out here last week, when you and Benoit were getting your asses kicked? Were they out here mixing it up, or were they in the back, watching the scrubs fight it out while they sipped on champagne?”
Benoit asks for the stick, and DDP forfeits it. “You wanna know what I’m thinking, Dean?” Benoit says between breaths. “I took a look around. You know who helped me get that United States Title? Nobody The same nobody who bailed us out last week when the Administration were stomping us into the ground. The same nobody who say they’re all for getting rid of the old guys … so they can take their spots. What am I thinking, Dean? I’m thinking that Scott Steiner may be a crazy son of a bitch … and that DDP might be too smart for his own good … and that Sting may be a little twisted … and that I probably can’t trust any of these guys not to go after the same things I want … but unlike the nWo, these guys won’t stand in my way of going after the World Championship. There’s no pecking order … no friends … just a bunch of guys who want to see WCW cleansed of the filth it’s choking on. It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to take charge of your career … or let guys like Nash and Goldberg Ôdefend’ your career for you.” With that, Benoit drops the mike and joins DDP and Steiner in leaving the ring, and its three perplexed residents.
With the gauntlet thrown down by Benoit, the championship committee is again put in a position of determining who is the more deserving contender: Bret Hart (who is due a rematch, and contends he never lost since he never said “I quit”), or Dean Malenko (who went to a tie with Benoit, and has also has an axe to grind). The committee comes to the conclusion that neither man is more deserving than the other, and a third triple-threat match is added to Spring Stampede—this one a round-robin submission match, where one competitor has to score a submission victory over both of his opponents to win the match, dubbed the “Theatre Of Pain” match—thus completing a three-way main event (each a three-way match).
The April 4th edition of Nitro has the semi-finals of the tag tournament, with Steiner & DDP going over Raven & Saturn; their opponents at Spring Stampede end up being (no surprise) Hennig & Windham, who have to resort to every dirty tactic in the book to get past Wrath & Bigelow. But there will be no dirty tactics or cheating for them come Spring Stampede, when they—and the audience—are told the finals will be no-DQ.
The final segment of the final Nitro before Spring Stampede gives the viewers a taste of what is to come on the PPV, if through a most unorthodox path: a debate. While none of the three men vying for the Presidency are actually campaigning or winning by vote, all three address the crowd—and, more importantly, WCW—about what they intend to do if they capture the Presidency. Bischoff is the first to issue his statement.
“Friends, fans, wrestlers and employees of WCW … I’m not going to stand up here and tell you what I can do to help WCW through this time of crisis. My record speaks for itself: I took command of WCW when it was in financial ruin, and turned it into a juggernaut. I took the bold risk of challenging Raw head-to-head with Nitro, and in just over a year, I beat it for 82 weeks straight. I gave new life to guys like Hogan and Savage and Luger and Flair, and I cultivated new stars: Chris Benoit, Goldberg, Chris Jericho, Rey Misterio Jr. I brought lucha libre wrestling to America and made it popular. My track record as the leader of WCW is illustrious and just goes to show what you can expect of me if I retake the Presidency of this fine company. Not only will I redirect the company back to the promised land it once ruled, but I will purge this company of the poisons that are killing it bit by bit, with every passing day, and in doing so, restore the pride to the name and legacy of World Championship Wrestling.”
Ric Flair laughs, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. His voice starts off calm and reserved; “My opponent seems to think running a wrestling company is as easy as running a McDonald’s. But ya know something … I’ve been a wrestler for over twenty years. I’ve worked for a lot of promoters and a lot of executives in my lifetime—some of them good, and some of them not so good. And for the past few years, I’ve worked for Eric Bischoff. Sure, he did some big things for World Championship Wrestling, but then he let the lure of power and fame and money call him over to the New World Order, and he tried to demolish the very company he’d turned into a leader in this sport. He can list all his achievements and sound all important, but the fact remains that two years ago, when he threw his WCW colors away and joined up with the nWo, he left WCW high and dry. And now …” Flair loosens his tie and takes off his jacket. He slips the microphone out of the holder on the podium and begins to pace back and forth, and now his voice is becoming more animated, his face a deep red. “And now he stands here saying he can cure WCW of the poison in its veins? How can he do that when he is the poison in WCW? There’s only one man who’s been around the block long enough to know what this company needs! Only one man who’s taken on the challenges of men like Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race and Terry Funk, challenges that are the kind of thing makes a man a man! Only one man who stands up for the tradition and honor of WCW, and that’s the Nature Boy Ric Flair! Whoo!”
Flair turns around to pick up his jacket and ends up nose to nose with Sting. Sting is as still as a lake on a windless day, his microphone in one hand, his black bat in the other. Flair backs up slowly, his eyes never leaving the eyes of his old nemesis (but keeping the bat in his peripheral vision as well). Sting raises the mike to his mouth, and the crowd cheers before he can say anything. When they finally die down, he does it again; “I don’t know about any of you guys in the audience, but the Stinger’s been down here in the ring, and all he’s heard so far is a bunch of crap!” The crowd lights up at that. Flair histrionic outrage is almost comical, while Bischoff just leans against his podium. “I mean, look at who I’m up against here: a blow-dried Ken-doll who’s stabbed WCW in the back already …” More crowd noise for that (while Bischoff remains still and silent). ” … and on the other side is some washed-up old man with delusions of grandeur.” The crowd pops again, but Sting gets right in Flair’s face—nose-tips almost touching this time—and says; “Tell me, Flair … you say you are WCW. How much WCW were you in 1991? How much of a loyalist to this company’s tradition were you when you took its title belt to another company and left us without a champion? How can you possibly stand upright, Flair, cause to say the things you’ve said, you must have balls as big as Mack trucks!” The crowd is almost in a joyous riot (as is Flair, minus the joyousness). Sting backs away from Flair, looking out into the crowd. “There’s only one man in this ring who’s represented WCW for his entire career. There’s only one man who represents the tradition and dignity of World Championship Wrestling … and I don’t need a bunch of old geezers, or a bunch of glory hounds to back me up.” He raises the bat up in the air. “This here is my back-up. And at Spring Stampede, this will become my Vice President.”
Out of his mind with rage, Flair can take no more and he shoves Sting, who collides with the podium. The bat falls from Sting’s hands. Sting waits a moment, then shoves Flair. Flair lets the momentum carry him back into the ropes, and bounces off them into a run; Sting ducks and Flair’s clothesline clobbers Bischoff. No sooner is Bischoff hitting the mat then Flair and Sting are trading blows. Nash comes out to protect Bischoff and this draws out Hogan; while they go at it, Goldberg comes out, and right behind him, Malenko, then Benoit, then Hart. Nitro’s last image is of the nine competitors from the three triple-threat main events, all slugging it out while Tony Schiavone promises Spring Stampede will be the biggest pay-per-view in all of wrestling’s history.
April 11th: Spring Stampede
The crowd at the arena is amped for Spring Stampede, they can barely keep it in. The undercard matches are given rousing welcomes, from the cruiserweight matches and the hardcore garbage-fests right up to the tag titles. And even though Hennig and Windham use every foreign object and dirty trick in the book (thanks to the leniency of the no-DQ stipulation) to win the vacant Tag Titles against Steiner & DDP, the fans—and Hennig & Windham—know that they have a lot of teams hunting for their heads.
But it is the triple-threat main event that everyone really wants to see, and when the first match of the three is announced—the three-way Theatre Of Pain match for the US Title—Michael Buffer has to compete to be heard with the fans.
No one even tries to form an alliance in the match, as any alliance will inevitably have to be broken; all three men trade blows right from the get-go. Benoit gets a series of chops on Bret that leave a stripe of across his chest, then works on Malenko. Malenko counters, and unleashes his own chops, but is cut off by Bret, who beats on Malenko. When Malenko is dazed enough, Bret sets sights on Benoit, but he is ready and counters with more chops. For five minutes, the men counter and re-counter one another, landing little more then chops and strikes, until Bret sneaks away while Benoit and Malenko are occupied with one another, and removes the protective covering on one of the turnbuckles. Bret grabs Benoit and slings him into the turnbuckle as hard as he can. Benoit crumples in a heap when his back collides with the steel. Bret turns his focus to Malenko and uses his size advantage to overpower the cruiserweight. He focuses a great deal of attention on Malenko’s back, punishing him with hard suplexes, backbreakers and slams. And after every few moments, he stops and delivers a little more pain to Benoit in the form of sending his head into the exposed steel. Bret’s barrage of misery on Malenko finally leads to a Sharpshooter, and Malenko, too small to power his way out or pull Bret to the ropes, has no choice but to tap out, giving Bret his first of two falls.
Bret turns his attention to Benoit, who has rolled out of the ring and onto the floor, seemingly out of energy and strength. But Benoit, who has had ample time to rest and save up some energy, ends his possum-play with a kick to the crotch. Benoit is up before Bret can fall, and he throws Bret shoulder-first into the steel steps. The steps have barely settled before Benoit picks up Bret and shove him from behind, shoulder-first into the steel post. Bret slumps against it, and Benoit circles around, grabbing Bret’s arm and pulling him against the post, stretching the shoulder and twisting the arm. But Benoit’s twisting around the post comes too close to Bret, who jabs a thumb in Benoit’s eye to buy himself some time. Benoit staggers away, but Bret gets no recovery time, as Malenko is right behind him; he slams Bret headfirst into the post, and then tosses Bret into the ring. When Benoit comes back and sees Malenko, he makes the mistake of charging. Malenko catches Benoit in a drop toehold, and Benoit crashes face-first into the dislodged steel steps, putting him out.
The real challenge of the match’s format now become apparent, to no one more then Bret Hart: he is one victory from winning, but his target lies unconscious outside the ring. Meanwhile, Dean Malenko—a man he has already beaten and has nothing to gain and everything to lose by fighting—is stalking him, looking for vengeance. And Malenko pounces on Bret like a lion on a wounded gazelle, using his speed to dazzle and blind him. Hurrancanranas, head-scissors and an array of high kicks keep Bret rocked enough for Malenko to use precision attacks—single-arm DDT’s, hammering elbows and arm wringers—to continue the work started by Benoit. Bret tries to reverse a throw into the ropes, but his arm is too weak to propel Malenko with any force, and Malenko turns, drops Bret with a toehold, then floats up and over to his wounded arm, seizing it in a Fujiwara arm-bar. Bret tries to power out, but Malenko leans back as far as he can without dislocating Bret’s shoulder entirely, and Bret has no choice but to do—for him—the unthinkable: tap out.
Malenko releases the hold as soon as the bell is rung and stands up, just in time for Benoit to come roaring in his direction, crashing into him with a thunderous shoulder block. The impact sends Malenko tumbling out of the ring. Benoit immediately turns to Bret, who is still on the mat nursing his shoulder, and starts pounding on his arm and shoulder with clubbing forearms. Bret tries to crawl away, but Benoit keeps pounding away until he stands and turns punches into stomps. Stomps become dropped elbows, and after the third drop of his elbow right into Bret’s shoulder, Benoit wraps his arms around Bret’s head, locks Bret’s arm between his legs and rears back. The mask of agony on Bret’s face is enough to send even the hardest of viewers into fits of sympathy pains. Bret tries to claw his way to the ropes with his free hand, but Benoit pulls back even harder, putting even more strain on the shoulder. Bret fights, trying to jam his hand in between Benoit’s to break the hold, but Benoit’s hands are clasped as tight as the locks on a bank vault. Bret’s free hand raises into the air, hesitating as long as he can, his hand quaking with the agony … and finally, it comes down on the mat, tapping out a hurried surrender. The crowd lights up—Benoit has evened things up, and Bret Hart is finished.
By the time Bret leaves the ring, Malenko has stirred enough to drag himself into the ring. Benoit gives Malenko a moment’s reprise to enter the ring before striking. Benoit lets loose with a volley of suplexes—three Germans in a row followed by a snap and a gutwrench—and follows it up with the high-impact punishment of a DDT and a gutbuster. Benoit makes the slash-across-the-throat sign and heads for the turnbuckle to execute his swan-dive head-butt; but the set-up is just enough time for Malenko to gather himself, and he rolls out of the way when Benoit takes to the air. Benoit crashes down, and with the little wherewithal he has left, Malenko scrambled onto Benoit, crossing his legs over one another, lacing his arms through and pulling back on the Texas Cloverleaf. Benoit’s screams are quite audible as the pain ravages through his exhausted body. He reaches back to Malenko’s legs, but Malenko inches them forward, sitting down even further and locking the move in tighter. Benoit pushes himself up, the curtain of agony on his face horrific to look upon, and Malenko rises with him. Benoit keeps pushing until his arms can’t push himself up any further; by this time, Malenko is almost standing up. Benoit twists his body a little, then quickly latches on to one of Malenko’s legs, now almost as vertical as Malenko is. Benoit pulls and tugs on Malenko’s leg, and Malenko has no choice but to let go of the hold, sending Benoit’s body crashing down to the mat. The pain is immeasurable, but Benoit fights through it, grabbing both ankles and pulling, tripping Malenko down on his back. Benoit grabs both legs as he stands and starts to turn Malenko over in a Boston Crab; Malenko fights the turn, twisting and contorting himself to prevent the turn. Benoit stops trying to turn Malenko over and instead, cinches up on his grasp of the legs, moving up to the thighs, and falls back, sending Malenko into a slingshot, kissing the turnbuckle. Benoit quickly jumps up, grabs Malenko’s arm and drags him down to the mat, locking in the Crossface. When Malenko tries to reach for the nearby ropes, Benoit rolls backwards, taking Malenko with him, until they are in the middle of the ring, with Benoit’s arms still locked tight around Malenko. He has no choice but to tap out, and when the bell rings and the ref presents Benoit with the belt, Malenko is the first one to shake Benoit’s hand amidst the standing ovation.
It is a hard act to follow, but with two matches to go, it must be done, and the follow-up is to determine the Presidency of WCW. At first, Sting is content to let Flair and Bischoff maul each other … even if Bischoff, with all his karate skills, is totally outmatched by Flair. Flair works over Bischoff’s legs, eliminating his one useful weapon, punishing them with strategic locks, maneuvers and good old fashioned stomping. But Flair knows better and eventually switches targets to Sting. The two old rivals engage one another in a battle of chops and counter-chops, clotheslines and Stinger Splashes, and the classic over-the-top throw into the corner for Flair, who is clotheslined to the floor afterward. Sting gives chase and is set to pound Flair into the guardrail, but a mule kick from Flair in the balls stops Sting’s onslaught. Once Flair has caught his wind, he sets about tossing Sting into the guardrail and bashing him into the ring post until he is dead weight. Satisfied, Flair slides back into the ring.
There, Bischoff, who has had several minutes to recoup, is waiting, and on weakened legs, plants a kick in Flair’s gut. Bischoff starts unloading on kicks to the shins and palm strikes, sending Flair scurrying for the corner. As he seeks shelter in the turnbuckle, Flair pulls the referee in the way as a shield, and Bischoff, acting on instinct, tattoos referee Randy Anderson’s jaw with a roundhouse. The mistake suddenly sinks in, and Bischoff pauses in realization of his mistake, which gives Flair long enough to drop to his knees and hit a low blow. Flair grabs Bischoff’s legs and starts to stomp Bischoff’s thighs, knotting up the hamstring. Flair drags Bischoff to the middle of the ring, gives a whoo! to the crowd, and makes the spin for the figure-four. But Bischoff kicks him in the ass, sending him into the ropes; when Flair bounces back, Bischoff mule-kicks him in the gut from the mat, driving the wind from Flair’s lungs.
Finally, another zebra comes to the ring, but the mood quickly turns sour when everyone realizes its Flair’s crooked ref, Charles Robinson. Robinson slides into the ring, and as he comes up behind Bischoff, kicks his leg out from underneath him. Flair struggles to make a lazy cover, and Robinson counts to two-and-three-quarters faster than most referees count to one. As Flair and Bischoff struggle to their feet, the crowd erupts at the sight of Macho Man Randy Savage, wearing his referee shirt, sliding into the ring. A stiff right puts Robinson’s lights out. Flair and Bischoff don’t notice the change in officiating until they’re on their feet. The delay caused by the surprise is long enough for the rested Sting, who has also come back in the ring, to wrap his arms around the heads of both his opponents in reverse headlocks and drop backwards, hitting simultaneous Scorpion Death Drops. He leans forward, grabs a leg from each man and pulls back, and Savage makes simultaneous three-counts with both hands. The crowd almost drowns out the proclamation of the new President of World Championship Wrestling as Sting and Savage shake hands. Almost the entire locker room—save for the members of the Administration and the New World Order—come out to celebrate the anointing of the new leader of the company, a man who everyone knows stands for fairness, justice and above all, has never been tainted by corruption like his defeated opponents. Sting is carried around on the shoulders of friends and adversaries alike, all united for one brief moment under one common banner: wrestlers of WCW.
The World Title match is saved for last, and proves to be the most violent of the three. Special referee Randy Savage is more then content sit back in the corner and let Nash, Goldberg and Hogan beat the living hell out of each other however and with whatever they can find. At first, its merely a slugfest, but when Hogan finds himself outmatched by the younger, more intense Goldberg and Nash, he resorts to bringing in a chair and waffling Goldberg with it in the back. Nash times a kick to the chair in Hogan’s face just right and goes for an early cover, but Savage’s one-and-a-half count is slow and deliberate. Nash shoots up and immediately starts yelling at Savage, but Savage points to his shirt and reminds Nash who the law is in the match. Nash tries to argue some more, but gets dropped with a low blow from Hogan. Hogan struggles to a standing point, bringing the chair with him and immediately goes to work tuning up on both men. After a volley of shots to Goldberg, he rolls of out the ring, leaving Nash to take all the abuse.
Hogan disposes of the chair and sets to a slow, torturous pace of beating on Nash, back raking, eye gouging and every other dirty tactic in his arsenal. Every time Hogan goes for the cover, Savage is there with his deliberate, one-one-thousand style count. Hogan knows better than to argue with Savage about the speed of the count, but frustration visibly sets in as every cover ends before two. Finally, Hogan can take no more, and he starts arguing with Savage. Savage does the same thing he did with Nash—point to his shirt to remind Hogan who’s boss. But frustration gets the better of Hogan and he give Savage a shove. Savage waits a moment to respond, then unloads with a series of blasts to Hogan’s jaw. Goldberg finally comes to and crawls in the ring in time to see Savage laying into Hogan, and he tries to break up the fight; for his troubles, he gets clocked in the back of the head by Hogan, trying to reach around Goldberg to hit Savage. Goldberg turns to Hogan, his eyes as cold as icicles. Fear wraps itself around Hogan, and he starts to back away, but Goldberg is on the hunt and will not be denied.
Goldberg lets loose on Hogan with vicious kicks and forearm shots, sending the legend into the turnbuckle. A whip across the ring to the other turnbuckle leads to a splash, then a military press slam. Goldberg crouches down, a predator ready to pounce on his prey, waiting for Hogan to get to his feet. When he does, Goldberg springs and folds Hogan in half with a spear. The crowd erupts as Goldberg gives the signal for the Jackhammer. He grabs Hogan by what hair he has left, hoists Hogan up above his head (holding him there, letting the blood flow to his head), then sends him crashing down. Savage is there to make the count, and the crowd counts with him up to two … when Nash makes a dive to interrupt the count.
Goldberg gets to his feet first, eyes blazing with rage. Nash struggles to get to his, and is welcomed to a vertical position with shots to the jaw. Goldberg sets up Nash for a powerslam, but Nash drops out of it behind Goldberg and shoves him chest-first into the turnbuckle. Nash picks up Goldberg over his shoulders, points to the turnbuckle, then his Goldberg with the Snake Eyes. Goldberg is whipped into the ropes, and Goldberg eats the leather of Big Sexy’s boot. Nash puts a fist in the air—the call for the Jackknife.
But Hogan crawls behind Nash and again sinks to a low blow to stop Nash. Nash goes down, and Hogan gets up, looking at his opponents. He mockingly does his ear-to-the-audience schtick, then points to Goldberg, the man who took his title almost a year ago. Hogan bounces off the ropes, connects with his legdrop and makes the cover; Savage counts to two, and Goldberg kicks out. Hogan is aghast, but when he sees Nash stirring, he pushes aside his frustration and delivers a legdrop to Nash for a cover. Again, his opponent kicks out, and Hogan is beside himself. Hogan stands up and turns in time to see Goldberg charging with another spear; this time, Hogan sidesteps and helps Goldberg use his own momentum to be propelled out of the ring. Goldberg lands in a heap on the arena floor, and Hogan taunts Goldberg.
Nash gets to his feet and hammers the distracted Hogan in the back. Nash puts Hogan over his shoulder and drops him into the turnbuckle Snake Eyes-style. When Hogan staggers around, holding his face in pain, Nash grabs him by the air and puts him in position. The crowd is screaming, and this time, there is no signal to waste time with. Nash picks him up and hits a picture-perfect Jackknife. Savage’s count is deliberate, and Goldberg gets to his feet and the apron of the ring in time to see Savage’s hand fall for the third time. Savage orders the timekeeper to ring the bell, and Michael Buffer proclaims that Kevin Nash is still the WCW World Champion. Savage helps Nash to his feet to raise his arm and give him the belt, but Nash looks to his left and sees Goldberg, his gaze a cold, sharp dagger in Nash’s direction. Champion he might be, but Nash knows he has yet to prove himself in one crucial category: he has yet to truly beat Goldberg. And he knows Goldberg will plead his case of not losing the match to Sting, who is none too sympathetic to either The Administration or the New World Order. No doubt Sting will have his own plans for both groups, and especially for Nash (torment probably does not begin to cover it, and it will probably start as soon as Nitro goes on the air the next night), but Nash knows somewhere, sometime, he will have to face Goldberg one-on-one and resolve the lingering question between them: who’s the better man?